Bill seeks to ease restrictions on foreigners in agri sector
MANILA, Philippines — Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has filed a measure that would reduce restrictions on foreign participation in the country’s rice and corn industry.
Rodriguez filed House Bill (HB) No. 7709, which would amend Presidential Decree (PD) No. 194—a 1973 law meant to liberalize, with ownership restrictions, foreign investments in the development of virgin lands into farms.
There was no mention of land ownership or development in HB 7709, but Rodriguez wants to delete sections of the decree that preclude foreign ownership of land, require financial capacity and prevent monopolies or restraint of trade.
Rodriguez pointed out, “There is a need to amend PD 194 to make it less restrictive and to attract more foreign investments. The aim is to address the underinvestment in the rice and corn sector and help said sector improve,” adding that the bill seeks to boost investments in the rice and corn industries.
In January, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines called for the lifting of foreign investment barriers in the rice and corn industry, particularly the repeal of PD 194, which could boost farm productivity in the Philippines.
Similar measures were pushed in the 17th and 18th Congresses, but they remained with the House committee on agriculture and food. HB 7709 was referred for scrutiny to the same committee.
HB 7709 seeks to delete Sections 3, 4, 5 and 7 of PD 194, which provide the conditions and limitations on foreign participation and investment in the Philippine rice and corn industry.
Such conditions and limitations set and enforced by a defunct National Grains Authority (now the National Food Authority) include an “urgent need,” an acceptable development plan, a minimum total investment and the eventual transfer to Filipino citizens of 60 percent of the foreign equity participation.
Rodriguez’s proposal also seeks to replace the defunct National Grains Authority with the Department of Agriculture.
Under the bill, the new provision would read, “The Department of Agriculture, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Trade and Industry, and other offices concerned, shall issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary to the implementation of the provisions of this decree.”