Issues on foreign investments, trade liberalization turn up heat in VP debate
MANILA, Philippines — Issues on retail trade liberalization and foreign investments turned the heat up on Saturday’s vice presidential debate hosted by CNN Philippines as vice presidential bet Walden Bello clashed with Senators Vicente Sotto III and Francis Pangilinan.
During the debate held at the University of Santo Tomas, the candidates were asked about their plans to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bello said amendments made to the Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Law should be repealed.
“We have had all these foreign-oriented laws that have been passed recently and Senate President Sotto was the one who pushed them through Congress and Senator Pangilinan also signed,” Bello said.
“So, paano ‘yan? Sinasabi niyo na for Filipino kayo and then you’re liberalizing all these laws,” he added.
Under the amended Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, a foreign retailer shall have at least P25 million in paid-up capital, lower than the $2.5 million in the previous version of the law.
Meanwhile, the amended Foreign Investment Act aims to improve investment factors to attract, promote, and welcome foreign investment activities.
In response to Bello, Sotto said the Retail Trade Liberalization Law seeks “to uplift the economy of the country.”
“We have lowered the threshold for those who want to invest, foreign investments, because that is the way to open up the economy. Hindi pupuwedeng yung sitwasyon lang natin ngayon ang mangyayari,” Sotto said.
Sotto said every year, P328 billion of the annual budget is unused. These funds can be used to help the MSMEs.
“For example, give P1 billion each for every province. There are only 81 provinces, P1 billion each, imagine what it can do for the economy in Occidental Mindoro and all the provinces especially the poor provinces,” Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Pangilinan said he supported the measure since the Philippines bides low in terms of foreign investments. Pangilinan said he and his running mate Vice President Leni Robredo intend to provide P100 billion to assist MSMEs in the country.
“Binalanse naman natin. Kaya nga may P100 billion na suporta para sa ating maliliit na negosyante para mabigyan sila ng alalay at ayuda habang nasa gitna tayo ng COVID pandemic,” Pangilinan said.
“Kailangan nating balansehin. Hindi pwedeng bawal ang lahat ng foreign investment o kaya restrictive to the degree na hindi na lalaki ang ating ekonomiya… But at the same time, suportahan ang ating lokal,” he added.
Bello, however, said he is unsatisfied with the responses of Sotto and Pangilinan.
“They are opening up SMEs and small enterprises to be eaten up by putting down the threshold by foreign entrepreneurs and businesses. And then they say they are protecting SMEs?” Bello said.