MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has approved on third reading the amendments to the American-era Public Service Law or Commonwealth Act No. 146 that limits the term “public utility” to enterprises involving electricity and water and classifying others as public service to allow them to generate more foreign investments.
“It was a seemingly impossible journey to pass this bill,” Sen. Grace Poe said, describing the Public Service Act as a legacy bill that should usher in investments in sectors such as telecommunications.
Industries that are classified as public utility and will therefore not be allowed 100 percent foreign ownership are the following: distribution or transmission of electricity, petroleum and petroleum products pipeline transmission or distribution systems, water pipeline distribution systems and wastewater pipeline systems, airports, seaports, public utility vehicles and
expressways and tollways.
“Hindi na tayo mapag iiwanan,” Poe said. “The country is now open for business but it must be according to our terms and our specific needs.”
Among the key features of the law is that it provides for the disgorgement of profits of enterprises found to be taking undue advantage of people and their need for their services.
It also requires the National Security Council to review foreign investments that would cede control of critical infrastructure and the creation of a congressional oversight committee that will evaluate the implementation of the law every five years.
The Act also provides for the classification of a public service as a public utility upon the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority as the economy evolves and as the needs of the populace changes.
“This is the most consequential legislation in the country,” Poe said.“ Let this be the game changer that businessmen say we need to attract more investments and improve public service. We have put in place safeguards to allay concerns on foreign ownership in critical infrastructure that do not sit well for some. The role of the legislative is to make laws that we hope the executive will implement for the betterment of the public.”