MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines should open up ownership of its land and educational institutions to foreigners to unleash the country’s full investment potential, a top diplomat said.
British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said the Duterte administration’s plan to amend the Constitution is a positive step that would open the floodgates for more foreign direct investments.
“We’re wholly supportive that finally the government of the Philippines is committed to changing the Constitution in such way that foreign direct investments will be made easier. It is already considered as one of the laggards in that area but that said, it does not stop British investments here but it’s just the potential I think will be a lot stronger,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad pointed out restrictions in foreign ownership for sectors like property and education are factors limiting the country’s growth.
“Land ownership and management have always been a tricky issue and there we are promised some change. I hope that the government will focus not on who owns the land but what use is being made of the land,” he said.
“In education, this is where we want to push the Philippines further. Going forward, it is absolutely imperative that restrictions on foreign educators and institutions be lifted. It’s absurd that Vietnam and China which are not English speaking countries have allowed this. The Constitution of the Philippines bans foreigners from teaching here – unless there are special exemptions – which in this day and age is a huge impediment for this country to be carrying,” Ahmad added.
The British diplomat, however, said relaxing restrictions to entice more foreign investors would not be complete without addressing the country’s infrastructure problems.
“Unless infrastructure investments become real and effective, this will remain huge constraint of the country,” he said.
Ahmad said the British and Philippine governments have agreed to focus UK expertise on improving the country’s airports at present.
“That does not mean we will not look at other things as there’s a lot more we can do on the ports side and on railways. But there’s clear opportunity for UK to do in helping the way the runway in NAIA is being used,” he said.
UK is the largest European investor in the Philippines with a net foreign direct investment stock of over $5 billion.