Opposition groups blast bill allowing 100% foreign ownership of utilities

Mar. 13, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ approval of a bill allowing 100 percent foreign ownership in public utilities in the country like power, transport, and communication has elicited criticism from opposition lawmakers and labor groups, among others.

On Tuesday, House Bill 78 seeking to amend the Public Service Act was passed on third and final reading with 136 lawmakers who voted yes.

Meanwhile, only 43 legislators voted against the bill, and one abstained from voting.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, in her explanation of NO vote to HB78, said that the relaxation of national restrictions means excessive foreign control over said public utilities, and “greatly undermines” national security consumer privacy and welfare.

“Foreign control over important, critical services must be limited as required by the Constitution,” Elago said.

On her part, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said that the government should not deceive the Filipinos in saying that they will benefit in “more choices, better services, and lower prices”.

“We know that it will result to a more serious deregulation, uncontrolled increase in the prices of commodities and services, and poor quality of service because the government doesn’t have control over multinational corporations,” Castro said.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc pointed out that HB78 violates Article 12, Section 11 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states at least that 60 percent of companies or business operating in the Philippines should be Filipino-owned.

Meanwhile, labor group Defend Jobs Philippines, immediately reacted to the approval of such bill, citing its negative implication on the labor sector.

The group believed that it will “only intensify exploitation and long-drawn violations of workers’ rights in the public service sector.”

“HB78 will only mean cheaper wages, docile labor and slashed benefits for working people in favor of profits. It will also result to a more difficult set-up for our workers in terms of the level of bargaining, labor flexibilization schemes, job security issues among many other concerns,” said Thadeus Ifurung, Defend Jobs Philippines spokesperson.

Ifurung added that allowing foreigners to fully manage and control domestic services will further plunge the local economy to an unavoidable crisis. (davaotoday.com)

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