A HOUSE leader has expressed serious concern over a Supreme Court (SC) ruling that would allow foreign construction firms to have a local license and be able to actively engage in any private and government projects in the country.
While stressing his utmost respect to the high tribunal, Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS) party-list Rep. Romeo S. Momo Sr., senior vice chairman of the House committee on public works and highways, said he is alarmed over the SC En Banc ruling on the petition for review filed by the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB), seeking reversal of the February 24, 2014 resolution and the February 10, 2015 order of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 83. The February 2014 ruling and the QC-RTC order were both favorable to the petition for declaratory relief filed by Manila Water Company, Inc. and declared void Section 3.1 Rule 3 of the Revised Rules and Regulations Governing Licensing and Accreditation of Contractors in the Philippines or the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) No. 4566 or the Philippine Licensing Board for Contractors Law.
Before the SC decision, Momo said only foreign construction companies with sixty-percent Filipino equity or with a local joint-venture partner could seek contract for a private or government project.
Now that foreign construction firms can apply for local license with PCAB, the CWS party-list lawmaker said local construction companies would stand to lose project contracts as well as job opportunities for Filipino construction workers.
“Big foreign contractors that will be given license like our local contractors can now participate in privately-funded biddings. Unlike before, wherein only those companies with at least sixty-percent Filipino equity are allowed. And in case of a foreign company which is a holder of quadruple license, if the project cost is at least P3 billion or P5 billion. If they got a project here, surely, they would bring in workers from their country and our Filipino construction workers will be the least of their priority,” Momo, an ally and friend of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) led by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez as President.
“While we respect the decision of the SC, we are expressing our deep concern on its effect to the Filipino construction industry – the Filipino contractors and the Filipino construction workers,” Momo explained.
But Momo said all is not lost with the said SC decision, as he vowed to spearhead the move to amend some provisions of RA 4566, particularly in an effort to protect the welfare of Filipino construction companies and workers.
“The Supreme Court said that there is no particular provision in RA 4566 stating that only Filipino-owned construction companies should be given PCAB license. It was only in its implementing rules and regulations or the IRR, that is why they said it is illegal. By that, what we need now is to amend the said law, especially having provisions that would be for the greater good of our local construction industry and Filipino construction workers,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Momo is very much confident that he will be able to muster the needed support from his colleagues in Congress, as well as from the members of the Senate, in pushing for the amendments of RA No. 4566.
He lamented that the SC’s decision comes at a time when growth of the construction industry in 2020 is expected to slow down to 1.2% from the 8.0% measured before the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) outbreak.
And to exacerbate the issue, he said the government decided to slash its capital outlays by 3 percent, or up to P775.1 billion from P800.6 billion.
Such has only underscored how small businesses, including small construction firms, remain among the hardest hit during this pandemic, according to Momo.
“In sum, it remains imperative that their rights and welfare of the Filipino construction workers will continue to be protected, especially now when our construction industry is undergoing a major shift amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Momo reiterated.