THE Cebu shipping industry has asked legislators to rethink allowing full foreign ownership in domestic shipping.
Lucio Lim Jr., president of Lite Shipping Corp., in a recent interview expressed apprehension on a bill seeking to fully open the local transportation industry, including sea transport, to foreign investors.
Paul Rodriguez, chief executive officer of Asian Marine Transport Corp., the operator of Super Shuttle vessels, pointed out that if such measure is passed, the sea transport sector will likely be dominated by foreign players.
The Public Service Act (PSA), which seeks the lifting of restrictions of ownership in public service sectors such as transportation and telecommunications, is one of the bills sought by President Rodrigo Duterte for “immediate enactment.”
In June 2019, the President had asked the Senate to immediately pass three bills, including the amendments to the PSA, Foreign Investments Act (FIA), and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.
Lim raised the issue of increased competition if foreign investors are allowed full ownership in domestic shipping.
For instance, he said Chinese investors will likely dominate the industry if foreign ownership is relaxed as most ships now used by domestic shipping lines are bought from China.
Rodriguez, who is also president of the Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association, said it will do more harm than good to the local shipping business.
He urged legislators to listen to the concerns of the shipping stakeholders.
Lim also raised that allowing full foreign ownership in shipping could also possibly pose a threat to apprenticeship programs of aspiring seafarers, citing concerns that foreign ship crew will also soon dominate the industry.
Meanwhile, the amendment to the FIA is expected to attract more foreign investors by reducing the number of direct local hires required. Businesses with a paid-in capital of US$100,000 will be required to have only 15 direct local hires instead of the current 50.
Foreign business owners have been lobbying for the measure to allow smaller brands to enter the Philippine retail market.