Bill to let foreigners own transport, telco firms in PH constitutional – Salceda
MANILA, Philippines — Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Friday said the proposed measure that seeks to allow foreign ownership of some of the country’s public utilities is constitutional.
Salceda, author of House Bill No. 78, said the Supreme Court has upheld the removal of sectors previously considered public utilities.
Citing the case of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, Salceda said the high court sustained the removal of “shipyards” from the definition of “public utility.”
Salceda issued the remark after fellow Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman questioned the constitutionality of the proposed law.
Citing the Constitution, Lagman said ownership, operation, control and management of public utilities are only given to Filipino citizens or to firms that are at least 60 percent owned by Filipinos.
House Bill No. 78, which aims to amend Commonwealth Act No. 146, known as the Public Service Act, distinguishes “public service,” which definition under the law is retained, from “public utility.”
The bill limits the definition of a public utility to electricity distribution, electricity transmission, and water pipeline distribution or sewerage pipeline system.
Thus, sectors not considered to be public utilities – such as telecommunications and transportation – would no longer be covered by the citizenship requirement.
However, citing Supreme Court rulings, Lagman said there is no distinction between “public utility” and “public service”.
Salceda, however, said the bill “is entitled to the presumption of constitutionality which every treaty, executive agreement, and statute enjoys.”
“The burden of proof is on the petitioner to clearly demonstrate that the assailed statute is unconstitutional. This is particularly so as regards economic regulations as opposed to statutes which infringe upon fundamental rights,” Salceda said.
In the bill’s explanatory note, Salceda said the enactment of the bill once signed into law will be beneficial to consumers.
“This legislative reform will significantly contribute to increasing competition, as well as protecting the public interest. More competition among providers would result in lower prices and improved quality of basic services, creating a more competitive economy towards a better quality of life for all,” Salceda noted.
House Bill No. 78 was recently approved on second reading in the House of Representatives.
Edited by KGA
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