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Monday, December 4, 2023

Lawmakers air opposition vs. bill on foreign ownership

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday thumbed down the bill which supposedly allows full foreign ownership of public utilities.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said House Bill 78 or the proposed New Public Service Act is “fatally violative” of the 1987 Constitution as it provides that ownership, operation, control and management of public utilities is reserved to Filipino citizens or to corporations at least 60 percent of whose capital is owned by Filipinos.

House Bill 78 limits the definition of public utilities to electricity distribution and transmission, water and sewerage pipelines, air transportation, ports and airports.

Lagman said he sees no distinction between “public utility” and “public service” as the Supreme Court itself stated in a 2003 ruling that “public utility is engaged in public service” that provides “basic commodities and services indispensable to the interest of the general public.”

“It is well-settled that public service is an indispensable attribute or element of a public utility, and the two are synonymous and interchangeable, so much so that there is no sound reason for making a distinction to justify defiance of the Constitution by allowing the non-compliance of ‘public service’ enterprises with the requirement of Filipino citizenship,” he added.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate echoed Lagman’s view, saying he finds it “tragically ironic” that the Duterte administration questions the Philippine depository receipt of broadcast network ABS-CBN when its allies in Congress are pushing for House Bill 78.

“If these amendments get through we would see our public services turned into super-profit generating, 100% foreign-owned enterprises. We would be fully at their mercy,” Zarate said.

“In the end we would all suffer from the complete sellout of our sovereign rights and resources that this amendment would allow. It’s completely unacceptable, and should be opposed,” he added.

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said House Bill 78 only sets the stage for total foreign control on vital services in the country like the media, railways, transport systems, telecommunication systems, among others.

“So much for Duterte’s talk of sovereignty and patrimony and against foreign ownership. This measure, if passed, would lead to foreign takeover of public transport systems, internet services, media and other sectors at the expense of ordinary consumers who will pay costlier services,” she added.

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