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Velasco cites need to relax investment relations

Allan Velasco
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco has underscored the need to relax the country’s investment regulations in order to attract more foreign direct investments, especially in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Addressing leaders and members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines (JFC) and local business groups during a virtual conference held last Thursday, Velasco said more foreign investments in agriculture and manufacturing would also mean more local jobs for Filipinos.

“We sorely need investments in these sectors — massive and sufficient — to generate and sustain employment,” Velasco said in his speech during the 9th ARANGKADA Philippines Forum titled “Foreign Investment in the Post-Pandemic Philippines.”

Velasco said agriculture and manufacturing should be major sources of employment, especially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a huge number of them were forced to return home amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He lamented that OFWs were first to get laid off because foreign countries needed to take care of their own workers first. “Would it not have been better if, in the first place, our workers did not have to go abroad to find quality employment?”

“Unfortunately, one of the most crippling structural weaknesses in the Philippine economy is the underperformance of our agriculture and manufacturing sectors,” he said.

To lure more foreign investors, Velasco said the country would need to relax its business regulations to make them more friendly to foreign investments.

The Marinduque solon then called for the enactment of investment-related legislative proposals, especially those espoused by the JFC and Philippine business groups.

These include amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Act and the Foreign Investment Act, all of which have already been passed by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate for its consideration.

At the same time, Velasco emphasized the need to address the “bottlenecks that hinder the efficient operation of our industries and the flow of capital and resources to sectors that need them the most and where they are assured of the highest returns.”

Among the legislative measures commonly being pushed by Velasco and business groups are the proposed Rural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act that the House had already approved on third reading; the Coconut Trust Fund Bill; the proposed National Land Use Act; and the amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law and the Contractor’s License Law.

Velasco said the House had also approved on final reading strong support measures, such as the proposed Internet Transactions Act and amendments to the Anti-Red Tape Act.

The Internet Transactions Bill aims to update the country’s regulatory environment towards the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs, which comprise 99 percent of all businesses in the country, while at the same time protecting the consumers of online goods and services.

The proposed amendments to the Anti-Red Tape Act seek to further expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits.

Meanwhile, Velasco said he was open to amendments towards relaxing restrictive provisions of the Constitution on foreign capital.

He, however, said there may be not enough time to push for these amendments in the present 18th Congress since there are many other equally important matters that it needs to attend to.

“Notwithstanding, this overdue constitutional amendment should be tackled and addressed with finality in the next Congress,” Velasco said.