Senator cites threat strategic firms will fall into Chinese hands if restrictions on foreign ownership are relaxed

SENATOR Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said Tuesday that easing the curbs on foreign investment in the Public Service Act will allow full foreign ownership in some public utilities and raised the prospect of Chinese control of strategic companies.

In a statement, she said China may also use its ownership of key companies as leverage in its territorial disputes with the Philippines.

Hindi na nga tumitigil ang Tsina sa pag-aarangkada sa West Philippine Sea, tapos bibigyan pa natin siya ng daan para bilhin ang mga imprastaktura sa loob mismo ng ating bansa? (China is proceeding without restraint in the West Philippine Sea, so why should we give it a path to acquiring our infrastructure?)” she said.

Kinukuha na ang ating mga likas-yaman sa ating karagatan, huwag naman nating hayaang pati sariling industriya natin sa lupa Tsina narin ang naghahari-harian. Ano na ang matitira sa Pilipinas? (It is grabbing our natural resources in the West Philippine Sea. We must not allow it to acquire our key companies. What will be left for the Philippines?)” she added.

Ms. Baraquel, who voted No on the approval of China-backed Dito Telecommunity’s franchise, said improving the country’s services should not “come at the expense of national security.”

“We have vital national security interests that should never be compromised,” she said.

Sa panahon pang tinataboy ang ating mga mangingisda sa ating mga teritoryo, paano tayo makakasiguro na hindi rin itataboy ng Tsina ang mga Pilipinong manggagawa sa mga industriyang gusto niyang pasukan? (At a time when China is turning away our fishermen from our own territory, how sure are we that China won’t bar Filipino workers from industries it wants to enter?) We should heighten restrictions on foreign ownership as China’s encroachment in the WPS escalates; not make it easier for her to establish a stronghold in our own land,” she added.

She said that the proposed amendments will allow 100% foreign ownership in some sectors including telecommunications and transportation.

Ms. Baraquel also said that there were still unresolved national security concerns surrounding public utilities in which Chinese entities have a 40% stake, such as in the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) and Dito Telecommunity.

“If we open up our transport sector, for example, does this mean that the so-called Chinese maritime militia can apply for licenses or permits to operate in our domestic waters? We are all for economic development, but never at the expense of our national dignity and sovereignty,” she said.

Ms. Baraquel in 2019 filed a resolution seeking an investigation and a national security audit of the NGCP. She also filed that year a resolution to investigate an Armed Forces of the Philippines deal with Dito, allowing the company to build facilities in military camps. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas