Bill to allow foreigners to own public utilities
The House of Representatives has quietly passed a bill that will purportedly allow foreigners to own public utilities, like power distribution or transmission and water pipeline companies, in violation of constitutional restrictions.
House Bill (HB) No. 5828, introduced by six lawmakers led by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, was passed by a 135-8 vote.
On the surface, HB 5828 only seeks to amend the 80-year-old Commonwealth Act 146, or the Public Service Act.
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a leader of a House independent bloc, said the bill would “virtually amend the Constitution by legislation without waiting for a constitutional amendment.”
HB 5828 redefines “public utility” as any “person that operates, manages and controls for public use” any electricity distribution or transmission and water pipeline or sewerage pipeline system.
But the bill does not propose a similar amendment to the Constitution, which restricts the grant of public utility franchises to Filipino citizens or companies, Lagman noted.
“Moreover, in its definition of a public utility, House Bill 5828 has deliberately deleted the concept of ownership and limited the definition to the operation, management and control of public utilities even as there can be no operation, management or control without an owner,” he said.
The bill also does not include public utilities, like common carriers and telecom firms, which are currently restricted to Filipino ownership, Lagman said.
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