Philippine Finance Chief Seeks to Liberalize Finance Laws to Lure Investments

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The Philippines can attract more foreign investors by cutting corporate income tax and streamlining incentives, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez who urged Congress to focus on “doable” measures as an alternative to charter amendment proposals that have drawn some concerns.

“If there are areas we can liberalize by amending existing laws, then let’s do that” in the final 17 months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, the finance chief said at a virtual hearing of the House of Representatives on proposals to ease foreign ownership limits in the Constitution.

A bill that will reduce the income tax paid by companies and make tax perks more targeted and flexible is waiting for a joint approval of the House and the Senate. Relaxing “anachronistic” laws including the 84-year old Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Foreign Investments law, he said, would also help the Southeast Asian nation that’s lagging neighbors in overseas investments.

Changing the Constitution close to the national elections in May next year and amid the coronavirus pandemic “might affect the focus, nature and pace of deliberations,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said at the same hearing.

Congress has reopened talks to change the Constitution enacted a year after the overthrow of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, despite earlier polls showing public sentiment against it and some lawmakers’ concerns that it could lead to term extension and silencing of government critics.

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