2010 Investment Climate Statement - The Philippines
The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) actively seeks foreign investment to promote economic development. The Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) assists investors with regulatory requirements, incentives, and market guidance to supported increased foreign investment. The Philippine investment landscape has some noteworthy strengths, such as its free trade zones, including the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Certain industries have experienced impressive growth in recent years, especially those that are able to leverage the Philippines' well-educated and English-speaking labor pool.
However, legal restrictions, regulatory inconsistency, and a lack of transparency hinder foreign investment. In many sectors of the economy, GRP regulatory authority remains ambiguous and corruption is a significant factor. In addition, a complex and slow judicial system inhibits the timely and fair resolution of commercial disputes.
Openness to Foreign Investment
The GRP is receptive to suggestions and criticisms from the private sector, and many foreign and domestic businesses make their views known through industry associations that support economic reform. The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, along with other chambers of commerce based in the Philippines, identify investment opportunities and barriers, and offer possible solutions to problems. The Chamber produces publicly-available advocacy papers on economic and political issues, sometimes jointly with other chambers. (See http://amchamphilippines.com.)
Philippine gross capital formation ranks among the lowest in Southeast Asia, averaging at only 15 percent of gross domestic product. Overall, net foreign direct investment (FDI) flows have averaged less than $1.6 billion annually over the past ten years. Net FDI flows improved yearly from less than $500 million in 2003 to $2.9 billion in 2007, but contracted by more than 50 percent year-on-year in 2008 to $1.4 billion. As of September 2009, year-to-date net inflows were estimated at $1.3 billion, up 6.8 percent from 2008’s comparable nine-month period. In 2009, the Philippines scored lower on global competitiveness and anti-corruption rankings. The American and other foreign chambers in the country continue to urge the Philippine government to remove legal barriers to trade and investment and further open up the Philippine economy.
Trade infrastructure urgently needs attention, including Bureau of Customs operations, the nation's inter-island shipping, and port facilities. Infrastructure projects often suffer from corrupt practices. Investors cite high electricity costs and power shortages as areas of concern. The GRP follows a policy of liberalizing the power sector through the sale of government generation and transmission assets and through support for alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on imported fuels.
Third party assessments of the Philippine investment climate statement are included below:
|World Bank’s Doing Business||2010||144 out of 183||-|
|World Bank "Doing Business"||2009||141 out of 183||-|
|Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index||2009||139 out of 180||2.4|
|Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index||2009||104th freest out of 122||56.8|
The Philippines ranked 144 out of 183 economies surveyed in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2010 report, an annual survey of different economies on the ease of doing business. Of the 10 factors measured in the survey, the Philippines scored 162 in starting a business, 132 in protecting investors, 118 in enforcing contracts, 115 in employing workers, and 68 in trading across borders (the only factor that the Philippines scored below 100). According to the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom index, the Philippines was the 104th freest economy in 2009, scoring a 56.8 in economic freedom. It scored above the world average in four of the ten “economic freedoms,” namely, trade freedom (76.8), fiscal freedom (75.4), financial freedom, (50.0), and government size (90.8). In Transparency International’s corruption perception index, the Philippines scored 2.4, ranking 139 out of 180 countries ranked. A country scoring 10 in the index is perceived to have low levels of corruption.
Under the law, foreign investors are generally treated like their domestic counterparts with important exceptions, as outlined below and in the Foreign Investment Act (R.A. 7042, 1991, amended by R.A. 8179, 1996). Corporations or partnerships must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and sole proprietorships must be registered with the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Investors generally say the Philippine bureaucracy is slow to process these requirements, but nondiscriminatory. Foreign investment incentive programs are described in the section on "Performance Requirements and Incentives."
Restrictions on Foreign Investment
The Foreign Investment Negative List is actually two lists that outline sectors that are restricted or limited in terms of foreign investment (1991 Foreign Investment Act). These limits are routinely cited as contributing to the poor Philippine record in attracting foreign investment, especially compared to its neighbors. List A enumerates investment sectors and activities for which foreign equity participation is restricted by mandate of the Constitution and specific laws. List B enumerates areas where foreign ownership is restricted or limited (generally at 40 percent) for reasons of national security, defense, public health, safety, and morals. The restrictions stem from a constitutional provision permitting Congress to reserve to Philippine citizens certain areas of investment (Section 10 of Article XII) and limit foreign participation in public utilities or their operation (Section 11, Article XII) . No mechanism exists for a waiver under the negative lists. The Foreign Investment Act requires the Philippine government to publish an updated negative list every two years to reflect changes in law. The 2007 negative list is in force, pending release of the eighth negative list.
Only Philippine citizens can practice licensed professions such as engineering, medicine and allied professions, accountancy, architecture, interior design, chemistry, environmental planning, social work, teaching, and law. As a general policy, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) allows the employment of foreigners provided there are no qualified Philippine citizens who can fill the position. BOI-registered companies may employ foreign nationals in supervisory, technical, or advisory positions for five years from registration, extendable for limited periods at the discretion of the BOI. Top positions and elective officers of majority foreign-owned enterprises (i.e., president, general manager, and treasurer or their equivalents) are exempt from these restrictions.
Other investment areas reserved for Filipinos include: mass media (except recording); small-scale mining; private security; utilization of marine resources, including small-scale utilization of natural resources in rivers, lakes, and lagoons; and the manufacture of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.
The retail trade industry is highly restricted to foreign investment. Retail trade enterprises with paid-up capital of less than $2.5 million are reserved for Filipinos, or less than $250,000 for retailers of luxury goods. Foreign ownership of retail trade enterprises with paid-up capital between $2.5 to 7 million is now allowed, with initial capitalization requirements. Enterprises engaged in financing and investment activities that are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including securities underwriting, are limited to 60 percent foreign ownership.
Other specific limits on foreign investment include:· Private radio communications networks (20 percent)
· Employee recruitment and locally-funded public works construction and repair (25 percent)
· Advertising agencies (30 percent)
· Natural resource exploration, development, and utilization (40 percent, with exceptions)
· Education institutions (40 percent)
· Public utilities' operation and management (40 percent)
· Operation of commercial deep-sea fishing vessels (40 percent)
· Philippine government procurement contracts (40 percent)
· Adjustment companies (insurance sector) (40 percent)
· Operations of build-operate-transfer projects in public utilities (40 percent)
· Ownership of private lands (40 percent)
· Rice and corn processing (40 percent, with exceptions)
In 2004, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 allowing a foreign entity full ownership of a company involved in large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of mineral resources, as arranged through Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements with the Philippine government.
Negative Investment List B enumerates areas where foreign ownership is restricted or limited for reasons of national security, defense, public health, safety, and morals. Sectors covered include explosives, firearms, military hardware, massage clinics, and gambling, and are generally limited to 40 percent foreign equity. This list also restricts foreign ownership in small- and medium-sized enterprises to no more than 40 percent in non-export firms.
In addition to the restrictions noted in the "A" and "B" lists, firms with more than 40 percent foreign equity that qualify for BOI incentives must divest to the 40 percent level within 30 years from registration date or within a longer period determined by the BOI. Foreign-controlled companies that export 100 percent of production are exempt from this requirement.
Although a relaxation of previous policy, the number of new foreign banks that could open full-service branches in the Philippines was capped at a total of ten in 1994 (Act Liberalizing the Entry and Scope of Operations of Foreign Banks in the Philippines, R.A. 7721). All ten licenses were issued within the five-year window provided for this mode of entry, which closed in 1999. These foreign banks are limited to six branch offices each. This is in addition to the four foreign banks operating in the Philippines prior to 1948, which were also allowed to open up to six branches each. Foreign banks that qualify under the law -- publicly-listed and with national or global rankings -- may own up to 60 percent in a locally incorporated subsidiary. Foreign investors that do not meet these requirements are limited to a 40 percent stake.
Since 1999, a Central Bank-imposed moratorium on the issuance of new bank licenses has limited investments to existing banks, although micro-finance institutions are exempt. Philippine law also requires that majority Filipino-owned banks must, at all times, control at least 70 percent of total banking system resources in the country.
The insurance industry was opened to 100 percent foreign ownership in 1994, with a sliding scale of minimum capital requirements depending on the degree of foreign ownership. As a general rule, only the state-owned Government Service Insurance System may provide coverage for government-funded projects. Build-operate-transfer projects and privatized government corporations must secure insurance and bonding from the Government Service Insurance System, at least proportional to GRP interests (Administrative Order 141).
The Philippines is generally open to foreign portfolio capital investment. A more detailed discussion is provided in the section "Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment." Membership in the Philippine Stock Exchange is open to foreign-controlled stock brokerages incorporated under Philippine law. Offshore companies not incorporated in the Philippines may underwrite Philippine issues for foreign markets, but not for the domestic market. The Lending Company Regulation Act requires majority Philippine ownership for such enterprises, and was signed into law in May 2007 to establish a regulatory framework for credit enterprises that do not clearly fall under the scope of existing laws. Current law also restricts membership on boards of directors for mutual fund companies to Philippine citizens (Investment Company Act, R.A. 2629).
The 1987 Constitution prohibits foreign nationals from owning land in the Philippines. The Investors' Lease Act (R.A. 7652, 1994) allows foreign investors to lease a contiguous land parcel of up to 1000 hectares for 50 years, renewable once for 25 years.
In mid-2003, the Dual-Citizenship Act (Republic Act 9225) allowed natural-born Filipinos who became naturalized citizens of a foreign country to re-acquire Philippine citizenship. Philippine dual citizens now have full rights of possession of land and property. Ownership deeds continue to be difficult to establish, are poorly reported and regulated, and the court system is slow to resolve cases.
The Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law provides the legal framework for large infrastructure projects and other types of government contracts (R.A. 6957 of July 1990, as amended in May 1994 by R.A. 7718). Franchises in railways/urban rail mass transit systems, electricity distribution, water distribution, and telephone systems may only be awarded to enterprises with at least 60 percent Philippine ownership. American firms have won contracts under the law and similar arrangements, mostly in the power generation sector. However, more active foreign participation under BOT and similar arrangements is discouraged by legal administration problems, including weaknesses in planning, preparing, tendering, and executing private sector infrastructure projects and lingering ambiguities about the level of guarantees and other support provided by the government.
Conversion and Transfer Policies
There are no restrictions on the full and immediate transfer of funds associated with foreign investments, foreign debt servicing, the payment of royalties, lease payments, and similar fees. Foreign exchange purchased from the banking system, from foreign exchange corporations that are subsidiaries/affiliates of banks, and from foreign exchange dealers, money changers and remittance agents requires specific documentation spelled out in Central Bank regulations. To obtain foreign exchange for debt servicing, repatriation of capital, or remittance of profits, the foreign loans and foreign investment must be registered with the Central Bank. To be registered with the Central Bank, foreign investments should be funded by inward remittances of foreign exchange.
There is no mandatory foreign exchange surrender requirement imposed on export earners and other foreign exchange earners such as overseas workers. The Central Bank follows a market-determined exchange rate policy, with scope for occasional intervention targeted mainly at smoothing excessive foreign exchange volatility.
Expropriation and Compensation
Philippine law allows for expropriation of private property for public use or in the interest of national welfare or defense. In such cases, the GRP offers compensation for the affected property. Most expropriation cases involve acquisition for major public sector infrastructure projects. In the event of expropriation, foreign investors have the right under Philippine law to remit sums received as compensation in the currency in which the investment was originally made and at the exchange rate at the time of remittance. However, agreeing on a mutually acceptable price can be a protracted process. There are no recent cases of expropriation of U.S. companies in the Philippines.
Philippine law mandates divestment to 40 percent foreign equity in some sectors. The Omnibus Investment Code specifies a 30-year divestment period for non-pioneer foreign-owned companies that accept investment incentives. Exempt from divestment requirements are pioneer enterprises and companies that export 100 percent of production. Certain non-luxury retail establishments must offer at least 30 percent of their equity to the public within eight years from the start of operations.
Investment disputes can take years for parties to reach final settlement. A number of GRP actions in recent years have raised questions over the sanctity of contracts in the Philippines and have clouded the investment climate. Recent high-profile cases include the GRP-initiated review and renegotiation of contracts with independent power producers, court decisions voiding allegedly tainted and disadvantageous BOT agreements, and challenges to the extent of foreign participation in large-scale natural resource exploration activities, such as mining.
Many foreign investors describe the inefficiency and uncertainty of the judicial system as a significant disincentive for investment. The judiciary is constitutionally independent of the executive and legislative branches and faces many problems, including understaffing and corruption. Critics also charge that judges rarely have a background in, or thorough understanding of, market economics or business, and that their decisions stray from the interpretation of law into policymaking. The GRP is pursuing judicial reform with support from foreign donors, including the U.S. Government, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank.
The Philippines is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes and of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitrage Awards. However, Philippine courts have, in several cases involving U.S. and other foreign firms, shown a reluctance to abide by the arbitral process or its resulting decisions. Enforcing an arbitral award in the Philippines can take years.
Regional trial courts that are specifically designated by the Supreme Court as commercial courts have jurisdiction (Securities Regulation Code of 2000). Bankruptcy cases are governed procedural rules in effect since January 2009. The new rules allow courts to approve rehabilitation plans endorsed by creditors holding at least two-thirds of the total liabilities of the debtor. They also recognize foreign proceedings, as well as specific deadlines for compliance with procedural requirements, including court approval/disapproval of a rehabilitation plan. Some judges reportedly have not enforced the deadlines in a number of cases, resulting in protracted proceedings that can take several years to resolve. Investors have also expressed concern over a provision that allows the courts to approve a rehabilitation plan despite opposition from majority creditors.
The legal framework is ambiguous in the area of bankruptcy, especially regarding secured creditors’ rights if a debtor is liquidated. While the Civil Code stipulates that a secured creditor has the right to full payment up to the value of the collateral securing the loan, several subsequent judicial rulings and statutory provisions have allowed other parties (including employees and tax authorities) access to the liquidated assets when funds are insufficient to pay the claimants.
Performance Requirements and Incentives
Every year, the Investment Priorities Plan presents a list of investment areas entitled to incentives. The 2009 Plan was formulated to mitigate the effects of the global economic slowdown, the following priority investment areas: agriculture/agribusiness and fisheries (including biotechnological products and services); infrastructure; engineered products; tourism; business process outsourcing; research and development; and, creative industries. Also covered are “strategic activities,” projects with a minimum investment of US $300 million that create at least 1,000 jobs or use advanced technology.
Screening for the legitimacy and regulatory compliance of companies seeking investment incentives appears to be nondiscriminatory, but the application process can be complicated since incentives granted by the BOI often depend on action by other agencies, such as the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Customs. The basic incentives offered to BOI-registered companies include:
- Income tax holiday: new projects with "pioneer" status receive a six-year income tax holiday, with the possibility of an extension to eight years. New projects with non-pioneer status receive a four-year holiday with a possible extension to six years. New or expansion projects in less-developed areas, regardless of status, receive a six-year income tax holiday. Expansion and modernization projects receive three years, limited to incremental sales revenue/volume. Enterprises located in less-developed areas may secure a bonus year if: the ratio of total imported and domestic capital equipment to number of workers for the project does not exceed $10,000 per worker; the net foreign exchange savings or earnings amount to at least $500,000 annually for the first three years of operation; or indigenous raw materials used are at least 50 percent of the total cost of raw materials for the years prior to the extension unless the BOI prescribes a higher percentage:
- For the first five years after registration, an additional deduction from taxable income equivalent to 50 percent of the wages of additional direct-hire workers, provided the enterprise meets a prescribed capital equipment-to-labor ratio set by the BOI. Firms that benefit from this incentive cannot simultaneously claim an income tax holiday;
- Additional deduction from taxable income for necessary and major infrastructure works for companies located in areas with deficient infrastructure, public utilities, and other facilities. A company may deduct from its taxable income an amount equivalent to expenses incurred in the development of necessary and major infrastructure works. This deduction is not applicable for mining and forestry-related projects;
- Tax and duty exemption on imported breeding stocks and genetic materials and/or tax credits on local purchases thereof, for purchases made within ten years from a company's registration with the BOI or from the start of its commercial operation;
- Exemption from wharf dues and any export tax, duty, impost, or fees on non-traditional export products made within ten years of a company's registration with the BOI;
- Tax and duty exemption on importation of required supplies/spare parts for consigned equipment by a registered enterprise with a bonded manufacturing warehouse;
- Importation of consigned equipment for ten years from date of registration with the BOI, subject to posting a re-export bond;
- Enterprises may employ foreign nationals in supervisory, technical, or advisory positions for a period not exceeding five years from registration (extendible for limited periods at the discretion of the BOI) under simplified visa requirements. The positions of president, general manager, and treasurer of foreign-owned registered enterprises are not subject to this limitation. GRP regulations require the training of Filipino understudies for the positions held by foreigners;
- Simplification of customs procedures for the importation of equipment, spare parts, raw materials and supplies and exports of processed products;
- Access to a bonded manufacturing / trading warehouse subject to customs regulations.
Proposed Changes to Investment Incentives
There are currently more than 140 laws that address general and sector-targeting incentives. The scope and detail of reform remains contentious, although past and present administrations have acknowledged the need to rationalize the incentives regime and a number of bills have been filed in the Philippine Congress. Proposals to phase out income tax holidays have been especially controversial and are opposed by business.
Incentives for Exporters
An enterprise with more than 40 percent foreign equity that exports at least 70 percent of its production may still be entitled to incentives even if the activity is not listed in the Investment Priorities Plan. In addition to the general incentives available to BOI-registered companies, a number of incentives apply specifically to registered export-oriented firms. These include:
- Tax credit for taxes and duties paid on imported raw materials used in the processing of export products;
- Exemption from taxes and duties on imported spare parts (applies to firms exporting at least 70 percent); and,
- Access to customs bonded manufacturing warehouses.
The BOI is flexible with the enforcement of individual export targets, provided that exports as a percentage of total production do not fall below the minimum requirement (50 percent for local firms and 70 percent for foreign firms). BOI-registered foreign controlled firms that qualify for export incentives are subject to a 30-year divestment period, at the end of which at least 60 percent of equity must be Filipino-controlled. Foreign firms that export 100 percent of production are exempt from this divestment requirement.
Firms that earn at least 50 percent of their revenues from exports may register for additional incentives under the Export Development Act (R.A. 7844, 1994). Registered exporters may also be eligible for BOI incentives, provided the exporters are registered according to BOI rules and regulations and the exporter does not take advantage of the same or similar incentives twice. Export incentives include a tax credit ranging from 2.5 percent to 10 percent of annual incremental export revenue.
Performance and Local Sourcing Requirements
Performance requirements are usually based on an approved project proposal, established by the BOI for investors who are granted incentives. In general, the BOI and the investor agree on yearly production schedules and export performance targets.
The BOI requires registered projects to maintain at least 25 percent of total project cost in the form of equity. The BOI generally sets a 20 percent local value-added requirement when screening applications, and is flexible in enforcing this requirement as long as actual performance does not deviate significantly from the industry standard.
Specifically in the automotive sector, there are no local content requirements for cars, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. However, to apply for registration with the BOI and to qualify for incentives, new domestic and foreign assemblers must have a technical licensing agreement with the overseas completely-knocked-down supplier to provide technical assistance. Assemblers must also invest at least $10 million in assembly operations and associated parts manufacture within one year for automotive production, $8 million for commercial vehicles, and $2 million for motorcycles.
Certain industries are subject to specific local sourcing requirements. Foreign retailers must source locally for the first ten years after the law's effective date. During that period, a portion of inventory should consist of products assembled or manufactured in the Philippines, specifically, 30 percent of inventory in firms dealing primary in non-luxury items, and 10 percent of inventory in primarily luxury-item firms.
Incentives for Regional Headquarters, Regional Operating Headquarters, and Warehouses
Philippine law provides incentives for multinational enterprises to establish regional or area headquarters and regional operating headquarters in the Philippines (Book III of the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987, amended by R.A. 8756, 1999). Regional headquarters are branches of multinational companies headquartered outside the Philippines that do not earn or derive income in the Philippines, but that act as supervisory, communications, or coordinating centers. The capital requirement for a regional headquarters is $50,000 annually to cover operating expenses. Incentives for regional headquarters include:
- exemption from income tax;
- exemption from branch profits remittance tax;
- exemption from value-added tax;
- sale or lease of goods and property and rendition of services to the regional headquarters subject to zero percent value-added tax;
- exemption from all taxes, fees, or charges imposed by a local government unit (except real property taxes on land improvement and equipment);
- value-added tax and duty-free importation of training and conference materials and equipment solely used for the headquarters functions.
Regional operating headquarters derive income from their affiliates in the region and in the Philippines by providing services such as general administration and planning, sourcing of raw materials and components, marketing, sales, research and development, and business development. Regional operating headquarters enjoy many of the same incentives as regional headquarters but, being income generating, are subject to the standard 12 percent value-added tax, applicable branch profits remittance tax, and a preferential 10 percent corporate income tax. Privileges extended to foreign executives working at these operations include tax and duty-free importation of personal and household effects, and immigration benefits for executives. Eligible multinationals establishing regional operating headquarters must spend at least $200,000 yearly to cover operations.
Multinationals establishing regional warehouses for the supply of spare parts, manufactured components, or raw materials for their foreign markets also enjoy incentives on imports that are re-exported. Re-exported imports are exempt from customs duties, internal revenue taxes, and local taxes. Imported merchandise intended for the Philippine market is subject to applicable duties and taxes.
The Philippines is not a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. Implementing regulations for government procurement require the public sector to procure goods, supplies, and consulting services from enterprises that are at least 60 percent Filipino-owned and infrastructure services from enterprises with at least 75 percent Filipino interest, in line with the 2003 Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA). The GPRA consolidated procurement laws to simplify and standardize guidelines, procedures and forms across Philippine government entities. More specifically, GPRA outlines prequalification procedures, objective criteria in the selection process, and, guidelines for a single portal electronic procurement system. U.S. and other foreign companies continue to raise concerns about irregularities in government procurement and uneven, inconsistent implementation.
In the bid evaluation process for public sector purchases of goods and supplies, GPRA regulations give preference to local products and/or Filipino-controlled enterprises. When the lowest bid is from a supplier of imported goods and/or from a foreign-owned enterprise, the lowest domestic bidder or domestic entity can claim preference and match the offer, provided his bid was no more than 15 percent higher than that of the foreign bidder or foreign entity.
Filipino consultants enjoy preferential treatment, as the law requires the GRP to employ local expertise and consultancy services for its infrastructure projects, as much as possible (Executive Order 278). When Filipino capability is insufficient, Filipino consultants may hire or work with foreigners but should be the lead consultants. Where foreign funding is indispensable, foreign consultants must enter into joint ventures with Filipinos. Multilateral donor agencies report that their implementing partners have thus far been able to comply with both donors' internal procurement guidelines and Executive Order 278.
An exception to this general rule of government procurement is foreign-funded aid projects. Foreign bidders may participate, provided the foreign assistance agreement expressly provides use of the foreign government or international financing institution’s procurement procedures and guidelines. An earlier law, the Official Development Assistance Act, also authorizes the President to waive statutory preferences for local suppliers for foreign-funded projects/programs.
The Government Procurement Reform Act does not cover projects under the BOT Law, which allows investors in BOT projects and similar private-public sector arrangements to engage the services of Philippine and/or foreign firms for the construction of infrastructure projects.
Procurement by government agencies and government-owned or controlled corporations is subject to a countertrade requirements entailing the payment of at least $1 million in foreign currency (Executive Order 120). Implementing regulations set the level of countertrade obligations at a minimum of 50 percent of the import price and set penalties for nonperformance of countertrade obligations.
Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Philippine law recognizes the private right to acquire and dispose of property or business interests, although acquisitions, mergers, and other combinations of business interests involving foreign equity must comply with foreign nationality caps specified in the Constitution and other laws. The 1987 Constitution gives the GRP the authority to regulate or prohibit monopolies, and it also bans unfair competition, although there is no implementing law.
A few sectors are closed to private enterprise, generally on grounds of security, health, or "public morals." For example, the GRP controls and operates the country's casinos through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and runs lottery operations through the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Only the state-owned Government Service Insurance System may insure government-funded projects. BOT projects, as well as partially privatized government corporations, must meet insurance and bonding requirements from the government insurance system, in proportion to GRP interests. In addition, government funds are kept in government-owned banks.
Protection of Property Rights
Although the Philippines has procedures and systems for registering claims on property, including intellectual property and chattel/mortgages, delays and uncertainty associated with a cumbersome court system continue to concern investors. Questions regarding the general sanctity of contracts, and the property rights they support, have also clouded the investment climate. Of particular concern in the Philippines in the challenge of intellectual property rights protection, for which the Philippines is listed on United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watch List.
Intellectual Property Rights
In 2006, the United States moved the Philippines from the Priority Watch List on intellectual property protection to the Watch List, under Section 301 of U.S. trade law. This improvement in its rating recognized steps the GRP has taken to strengthen its intellectual property regime. The Philippine government pledged continued focus on intellectual property rights initiatives following the announcement.
The Intellectual Property Code provides the legal framework for intellectual property rights protection in the Philippines, especially in the key areas of patents, trademarks, and copyright (R.A. 8293, 1997). The Electronic Commerce Act extends the legal framework established by the Intellectual Property Code to the internet (R.A. 8792, 2000). Investor concerns include deficiencies in the Intellectual Property Code and other IP laws remain investor, with unclear provisions relating to the rights of copyright owners over broadcast, rebroadcast, cable retransmission, or satellite retransmission of their works, and burdensome restrictions affecting contracts to license software and other technology.
The Philippines has a first-to-file patent system, with a term of 20 years from the date of filing. It also recognizes the patentability of microorganisms and non-biological and microbiological processes. The holder of a patent is guaranteed an additional right of exclusive importation of his invention. A compulsory license may be granted in some circumstances, including if the patented invention is not being used in the Philippines without satisfactory reason, although importation of the patented article constitutes using the patent. In 2008, the Philippine Congress passed the Cheaper Medicines Act, which places limitations on patent protection for pharmaceuticals, and significantly liberalizes the grounds for the compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals (Republic Act 9502).
Prior use of a trademark in the Philippines is not required to file a trademark application. Well-known marks need not be in actual use in Philippine commerce or registered with the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks. A Certificate of Registration remains in force for ten years and may be renewed for ten-year periods. Notwithstanding these legal provisions, counterfeit trademarked goods such as brand name and designer clothing, handbags, cigarettes, and other consumer goods remain widely available through mainstream outlets and street markets.
In the area of copyright, computer software is protected as a literary work. Exclusive rental rights may be offered in several categories of works and sound recordings. Terms of protection for sound recordings, audiovisual works, and newspapers and periodicals are compatible with the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Although the Philippines is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, and has acceded to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Philippine government has not enacted necessary amendments to its Intellectual Property Code that would fully implement these treaties. Optical media piracy, including piracy of digital video discs and compact discs, also continues to be a problem. There are widespread unauthorized transmissions of motion pictures and other programming on cable television systems and the clandestine recording of movies in cinemas, piracy of books, cable television, and computer software also remain significant.
In addition to these provisions, the IP Code recognizes industrial designs, performers' rights, and trade secrets. The registration of a qualifying industrial design is for a period of five years and may be renewed for two consecutive five-year periods. While Philippine law recognizes performers' rights for 50 years after death, the exercise of exclusive rights for copyright owners over broadcast and retransmission is ambiguous. While there are no codified rules on the protection of trade secrets, GRP officials assert that existing civil and criminal statutes protect trade secrets and confidential information.
Other important laws defining intellectual property rights are the Plant Variety Protection Act (R.A. 9168, 2002), which provides plant breeders intellectual property rights consistent with the 1991 Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention, and the Integrated Circuit Act (R.A. 9150, 2001), which provides WTO-consistent protection for the layout designs of integrated circuits.
In addition to its commitments under TRIPS, the Philippines is a party to the following international intellectual property agreements: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure, the Patent Cooperation Treaty; and the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations.
Enforcement Challenges for Intellectual Property Rights
Significant concerns remain regarding the consistency and effectiveness of intellectual property rights protection. U.S. distributors continue to report high levels of pirated optical discs of cinematographic, musical works, computer games, and business software, as well as widespread unauthorized transmissions of motion pictures and other programming on cable television systems. Trademark infringement in a variety of product lines is also widespread, with counterfeit merchandise openly available.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has jurisdiction to resolve certain disputes concerning alleged infringement and licensing. Intellectual property owners have used the IPO's administrative complaint system as an alternative to the judicial court system. However, it can be slow-moving due to limited resources. Other agencies with IP enforcement responsibilities include: the Department of Justice; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); Philippine National Police (PNP); Optical Media Board (OMB); the Bureau of Customs; and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The OMB spearheads enforcement of the Optical Media Act since its establishment in 2005, with jurisdiction over the manufacture, mastering, replication, importation, and exportation of optical media, regardless of content (Republic Act No. 9239 of 2004). Generally, the Philippine government enforcement agencies are most responsive to those copyright owners who actively work with them to target infringement. Agencies will not proactively target infringement unless the copyright owner brings it to their attention and works with them on surveillance and enforcement actions. Joint efforts between the private sector and the NBI, the PNP and the OMB have resulted in some successful enforcement actions.
Enforcement actions are not often followed by successful prosecutions. Intellectual property infringement is not considered a major crime within the Philippine judicial system and takes a lower precedence in court proceedings. The Philippine government has tried several different judicial approaches to handling intellectual property cases, but none have worked well due to lack of resources and heavy non-IP workloads. Because of the prospect of lengthy court action, many cases are settled out of court. Since 2001, there have been sixty-four convictions for IP violations, with no convictions in 2009. Convicted intellectual property violators rarely spend time in jail, since the six year penalty enables them to apply for probation immediately under Philippine law.
Registering Intellectual Property
U.S. manufacturers and suppliers should register their copyrights, trademarks, and patents with:
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
351 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue
fax: (63-2) 897-1724 / 752.5450 to 65 local 201 / 207
email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Manufacturers and importers are also encouraged to register copyrights, trademarks, and patents with the Bureau of Customs to facilitate enforcement of rights.
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Philippine national agencies are required by law to develop regulations via a public consultation process, often involving public hearings. In most cases, this ensures some minimal level of transparency in the rulemaking process. New regulations must be published in national newspapers of general circulation or in the GRP's official gazette before taking effect.
On the enforcement side, however, regulatory action is often weak, inconsistent, and unpredictable. Regulatory agencies in the Philippines are generally not statutorily independent, but are attached to cabinet departments or the Office of the President and therefore subject to political pressure. Many U.S. investors describe business registration, customs, immigration, and visa procedures burdensome and a source of frustration. To counter this, some agencies, such as the SEC, BOI, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), have established express lanes or "one-stop shops" to reduce bureaucratic delays, with varying degrees of success. More discussion about express lanes as related to investment zones is in the section, "Foreign Trade Zones/Free Trade Zones."
Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Philippine government welcomes foreign portfolio capital investment. Non-residents may purchase domestically-issued securities and invest in money market instruments, as well as in peso-denominated time deposits with a minimum maturity of 90 days. Although growing, the securities market remains small and underdeveloped, with a limited range of choices. Except for a few large firms, long-term bonds and commercial paper are not yet major sources of capital.
Investments in publicly listed firms are governed by foreign ownership ceilings stipulated in the Constitution and other laws. Fewer than 250 firms are listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). In 2009, the ten most actively-traded companies accounted for more than 60 percent of trading value and about 40 percent of domestic market capitalization. To encourage publicly listed companies to widen their investor base, the PSE introduced reforms in April 2006 to include trading activity and free float criteria in the selection of companies comprising the stock exchange index. The 30 companies included in the benchmark index are subject to review every six months. Hostile takeovers are not common, because most company shares are not publicly listed and controlling interest tends to remain with a small group of parties. Cross-ownership and interlocking directorates among listed companies also lessen the likelihood of hostile takeovers.
The July 2000 passage of the Securities Regulation Code strengthened investor protection by requiring full disclosure in the regulation of public offerings, tightening rules on insider trading, segregating broker-dealer functions, outlining rules on mandatory tender offer requirements, significantly increasing sanctions for violations of securities laws and regulations, and mandating steps to improve the internal management of the stock exchange and future securities exchanges. To improve transparency and minimize conflict of interest, the Code also prohibits any one industry group (including brokers) from controlling more than 20 percent of the stock exchange’s voting rights.
The enforcement of these strengthened laws is mixed. While there has been some progress from the creation of special commercial courts, the prosecution of stock market irregularities can be subject to delays and uncertainties of the Philippine legal system. Compliance with the law is fraught with problems as well. For example, within the ten years the Code has been in effect, the PSE has yet to fully comply with the 20 percent industry limit, although it has taken steps to reduce brokers’ ownership from 100 percent to 40 percent of the stock exchange.
Credit is generally granted on market terms and foreign firms are able to obtain credit from the domestic market. However, some laws require financial institutions to set aside loans for certain preferred sectors, which may translate into increased costs and/or credit risks.
Banks must set aside 25 percent of loanable funds for agricultural credit, with at least 10 percent earmarked for programs such as improving the productivity of farmers to whom land has been distributed under agrarian reform programs (Agri-Agra Law P.D. 717, as amended). To facilitate compliance, alternative modes of meeting the Agri-Agra lending requirement include low-cost housing, educational and medical developmental loans, and investments in eligible government securities. Recent investor experience in these alternatives raise questions about implied guarantee by the Philippine government and investors are cautioned to be wary.
Banks are required to set aside ten percent of their loans for small-business borrowers (R.A. 9501). While most domestic banks are able to comply with these requirements, foreign banks find mandatory policies more burdensome for a number of reasons, including their lack of knowledge and experience with these sectors, their constrained branch networks, and constitutional restrictions on ownership of land by foreigners which impede their ability to enforce security rights over land accepted as collateral.
Direct lending by non-financial government agencies is limited per Executive Order 558 to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, focusing on the poorest areas not being served by micro-finance institutions.
As of the end of September 2009, the five largest commercial banks in the Philippines represented nearly 53 percent of total commercial banking system resources, with an estimated total assets of PhP 2,741 billion (equivalent to about US$57 billion). The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank) has worked to strengthen banks' capital base, reporting requirements, corporate governance, and risk management systems. Central Bank-mandated phased increases in minimum capitalization requirements and regulatory incentives for mergers have prompted several banks to seek partners. All Central Bank-supervised entities are required to adopt Philippine Financial Reporting Standards and Philippine Accounting Standards, patterned after International Financial Reporting and Accounting Standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Board.
Commercial banks' published average capital adequacy ratio was 15.9 percent on a consolidated basis as of end-June 2009, computed according to the Basel 2 risk-based capital adequacy framework. This ratio remains above the Central Bank’s 10 percent statutory limit and the eight percent internationally accepted benchmark. Philippine banks have limited direct exposure to investment products issued by troubled financial institutions overseas, estimated at less than two percent of total banking system resources. Fiscal and regulatory incentives to encourage the sale of non-performing assets to private asset management companies have promoted a healthy banking sector in the Philippines. By the end of September 2009, non-performing loans and non-performing asset ratios of commercial banks were estimated at 3.2 percent and 4.1 percent. These ratios had previously peaked in October 2001 at 18.3 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.
The General Banking Law of 2000 paved the way for the Philippine banking system to phase in these internationally accepted, risk-based capital adequacy standards. In 2007 a revised capital adequacy framework (Basel 2) was adopted, expanding coverage from credit and market risks to include operational risks and enhanced the risk-weighting framework. Other important provisions of the General Banking Law strengthened transparency, bank supervision, and bank management. Some impediments remain to more effective bank supervision, including stringent bank deposit secrecy laws, obstacles preventing regulators from examining banks at will, and inadequate liability protection for Central Bank officials and bank examiners.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force continues to monitor implementation of the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Act through the Anti-Money Laundering Council. Foreign exchange dealers and remittance agents are required to register with the Central Bank and must comply with various Central Bank regulations and requirements related to the implementation of the Philippines' anti-money laundering law. The Philippines is a member of the Egmont Group, the international network of financial intelligence units, and the Financial Action Task Force.
Asia Pacific Group conducted a comprehensive peer review of the Philippines in September 2008. Some of the more important Asia Pacific Group concerns cited include the exclusion of casinos from the scope of current anti-money laundering legislation and court rulings that inhibit and complicate investigations of fraud and corruption. Legislation to address these deficiencies is pending, but unlikely to pass before the May 2010 national election.
In a report released on April 2, 2009, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) included the Philippines on a four-country blacklist that had not committed to Internationally Agreed Tax Standards (IATS). The IATS promotes international cooperation in tax matters by requiring the exchange of information, on request, for the administration and enforcement of a requesting country’s domestic tax laws and to avoid harmful tax practices. Following subsequent representations by the Philippine government, the Philippines moved to a gray list of jurisdictions that have committed to the IATS but have not yet substantially implemented. Legislation that would allow and provide the framework for the exchange of tax-related information was ratified by both houses of the Philippine Congress and is being prepared for presidential signature as of this writing.
The Philippines has employed the accounting standards of the International Accounting Standards Board since 2005. The Philippine SEC and the Central Bank agreed to the full adoption of these standards, which are now embodied in the Philippine Financial Reporting Standards and Philippine Accounting Standards. However, some companies/industries have been granted temporary exceptions. For example, a Central Bank circular to implement the Special Purpose Vehicle Act deviates from generally accepted accounting principles by allowing banks to book losses arising from the sale of non-performing assets on a staggered basis. To encourage consolidation, the Central Bank has also allowed merging institutions to stagger provisions for bad debts.
To stem the effects of the worldwide financial crisis, the Philippines adopted amendments issued by the International Accounting Standards Board in October 2008 covering the accounting treatment and disclosure of financial assets. These amendments provide guidelines for the reclassification of certain non-derivative financial assets from categories recorded at fair market value to categories recorded at amortized cost. This move was intended to promote confidence in financial markets by tempering the potentially sharp deterioration in balance sheets and incomes caused by the current global financial turbulence.
The SEC requires a firm’s Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer to assume management responsibility and accountability for financial statements. Current rules also require the rotation and accreditation of external auditors of companies imbued with public interest (i.e., publicly listed firms, investment houses, stock brokerages, and other secondary licensees of the SEC).
The SEC instituted a system of guidelines for external auditors that require listed companies to disclose to the SEC any material findings within five days of receipt of the external audit findings. Material findings include fraud or error, losses or potential losses aggregating 10 percent or more of company assets, and indications of company insolvency. The external auditor is required to make the disclosure to the SEC within 30 business days of submitting its audit report to the client-company, should the latter fail to comply with this reporting requirement. The regulations require client-auditor contracts to contain a specific provision protecting the external auditor from civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings for disclosing material findings to the SEC.
The SEC guidelines on audits provide for credentialing of auditors. The SEC requires accredited external auditors to accumulate professional education credits and to maintain quality assurance procedures. In 2007, the Auditing and Assurance Standards Council issued new standards on quality control, auditing, review, assurance and related services that outline additional measures and policies for compliance by external auditors to improve the independence, objectivity, and thoroughness of audit work.
A number of local accountancy firms are affiliated with international accounting firms, including KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, BDO Seidman, and Grant Thornton.
Competition from State Owned Enterprises
Private and government-owned firms generally compete equally, with some clear exceptions. The governmental National Food Authority has, at times, been the sole legal importer of rice, though in 2008 the GRP ceded about half of all rice importation to the private sector.
In the insurance sector, only the state-owned Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) may provide coverage for government-funded projects, although the industry was opened up to 100 percent foreign ownership in 1994. All build-operate-transfer projects and privatized government corporations must fulfill all insurance and bonding requirements from the GSIS, at least proportional to the government’s interests.
Besides confronting direct competition from state owned enterprises in some limited areas, some sectors experience government intervention to directly cap or control pricing in private markets. Most notably in 2009, the Philippine government imposed temporary price controls on gasoline (Executive Order 939) and a basket of basic goods and services (Price Act 1991, R.A. 7581) in the wake of typhoons. Under Philippine law, the President may freeze prices on basic goods and services for a period of 90 days under a state of emergency. President Macapagal-Arroyo has also exercised her discretionary authority (Executive Order 821, July 2009) to force price reductions for specific name-brand pharmaceutical medicines.
The Privatization Management Office, under the Department of Finance, is the agency tasked to manage the privatization program. Apart from restrictions under the Foreign Investment Negative List, there are no regulations that discriminate against foreign buyers. The bidding process appears to be transparent, though the Supreme Court has twice overturned high profile privatization transactions to foreign buyers.
The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation is mandated to sell 70 percent of the government-owned National Power Corporation’s (NPC) generating assets and transfer 70 percent of NPC-Independent Power Producer contracts to private companies. Nine years after the signing of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, the Philippine government has opened access and retail competition: unbundled rates; removed cross-subsidies; established the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market and privatized 70 percent of NPC’s generation assets. The remaining fifth requirement, the transfer of the NPC-IPP contracts of IPP administrators, is slated for completion in 2010.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Although no law requires foreign or domestic private companies to institute corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, they constitute a basic and fundamental feature of most significant business operations in the Philippines. U.S. companies report strong and favorable response to CSR programs among employees and within local communities. Many CSR programs focus on poverty alleviation efforts, promotion of the environment, health initiatives, and education.
In some cases, the GRP has compelled its own entities to engage in CSR. For example, the Philippine Bases Conversion and Development Authority is mandated to declare portions of its property in Fort Bonifacio and surrounding areas as low-cost housing sites (Executive Order 70).
Terrorist groups and criminal gangs operate in some regions of the country. The Department of State publishes a consular information sheet at (http://travel.state.gov) and advises all Americans living in or visiting the Philippines to review this information periodically. The Department of State has issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Philippines at (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_2190.html). The Department strongly encourages visiting and resident Americans in the Philippines to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the State Department's travel registration website, (http://travelregistration.state.gov/).
Arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by various actors continue to be a problem in the Philippines. Following increased domestic and international scrutiny, the number of killings and disappearances had dropped significantly in 2008 from a peak in 2006, but recent incidents have again garnered significant international attention. The Philippines will hold national and local elections -- including a presidential election -- in May 2010. Violence has marred the campaign season, with the high-profile killings of a group of 57 civilians, including journalists, in an election-related incident in central Mindanao in November 2009.
In December 2009, the government and the Mindanao-based insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formally resumed peace talks. The peace process had stalled in August 2008 after the Supreme Court placed a temporary restraining order on the signing of a preliminary peace accord and, some MILF members in response attacked villages in central Mindanao and killed dozens of civilians. The ensuing fighting between government and insurgent forces caused both combat and civilian deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. In July 2009, both sides instituted ceasefires, ending nearly one year of intense fighting and enabling the parties to discuss a return to the negotiating table.
The New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is responsible for general civil disturbance through assassinations of public officials, bombings, and other tactics. It frequently demands "revolutionary taxes" from local and, at times, foreign businesses and business people. To enforce its demands, the NPA sometimes attacks infrastructure such as power facilities, telecommunications towers, and bridges. The National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization which includes the Communist Party and its allies, has engaged in intermittent but generally non-productive peace talks with the Philippine government. It has not targeted foreigners in recent years, but could threaten U.S. citizens engaged in business or property management activities.
Terrorist groups, including the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, Abu Sayaaf Group and Jema’ah Islamiyah, periodically attack civilian targets in Mindanao, kidnap civilians for ransom, and engage in armed skirmishes with the security forces.
The Philippines faces no major external threat and enjoys strong relations with the United States. The United States and the Philippines are allies under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, and the U.S. designated the Philippines as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally in 2003. The Visiting Forces Agreement, ratified in 1999, provides a framework for U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, including exercises, ship visits, and counter-terrorism cooperation.
Corruption is a pervasive and longstanding problem in the Philippines. The Philippines is not a signatory of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery. The Philippines signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003, which the Senate ratified in November 2006.
There are a number of laws and mechanisms directed at combating corruption and related anti-competitive business practices, although the enforcement of anti-corruption law has been weak and inconsistent. These new laws and mechanisms include the Philippine Revised Penal Code, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Code of Ethical Conduct for Public Officials. The Office of the Ombudsman investigates and prosecutes cases of alleged graft and corruption involving public officials, with the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) prosecuting and adjudicating cases filed by the Ombudsman.
A Presidential Anti-Graft Commission assists the President in coordinating, monitoring, and enhancing the government’s anti-corruption efforts. The Commission also investigates and hears administrative cases involving presidential appointees in the executive branch and government-owned and controlled corporations. Soliciting/accepting and offering/giving a bribe are criminal offenses, punishable with imprisonment (6-15 years), a fine, and/or disqualification from public office or business dealings with the government.
The Philippine government has worked in recent years to reinvigorate its anti-corruption drive. However, corruption indicators developed by non-governmental organizations suggest that these efforts have been inconsistent. Reforms have not improved public perception and are overshadowed by high-profile cases frequently reported in the Philippine media.
Bilateral Investment Agreements
As of December 2009, the Philippines had signed bilateral investment agreements with Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium and Luxembourg, Canada, Cambodia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The general provisions of the bilateral investment agreements include: the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments; nondiscrimination; the free transfer of capital, payments and earnings; freedom from expropriation and nationalization; and, recognition of the principle of subrogation.
The Philippines has a tax treaty with the United States for the purpose of avoiding double taxation, providing procedures for resolving interpretative disputes, and enforcing taxes of both countries. The treaty also encourages bilateral trade and investments by allowing the exchange of capital, goods and services under clearly defined tax rules and, in some cases, preferential tax rates or tax exemptions.
Most Favored Nation Clause for Royalties
Pursuant to the most favored nation clause of the Philippine - U.S. tax treaty, U.S. recipients of royalty income may avail of the preferential rate provided in the Philippine-China tax treaty, which went into effect in January 2002. Accordingly, a lower tax rate of 10 percent applies with respect to royalties arising from: the use of (or right to use) any patent, trademark, design, model, plan, secret formula, or process; or, the use (or right to use) industrial, commercial, and scientific equipment, or information concerning industrial, commercial, or scientific experience.
A foreign company without a branch office that renders services to Philippine clients is considered a permanent establishment, and is liable to pay Philippine taxes if the services rendered to a Philippine client require its personnel to stay in the country for more than 183 days for the same or a connected project in a twelve-month period. However, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) rulings on the taxation of permanent establishments have been inconsistent. In some rulings, the Philippine government has applied the corporate income tax rate on net taxable income, a treatment that applies to resident foreign corporations. In others, it has applied the corporate income tax rate on gross income, a treatment that applies to non-resident foreign corporations.
Tax Treaty Relief Rulings
Philippine courts reportedly have denied a number of claims for refund of tax payments in excess of rates prescribed under applicable tax treaties for failure to secure tax treaty relief rulings. An entity must obtain a tax treaty relief ruling from the BIR in order to qualify for preferential tax treaty rates and treatment, However, according to several tax lawyers, the volume of tax treaty relief applications has resulted in processing delays, with most applications reportedly pending for over a year.
Tax on Liquidating Gains
Recently, the Bureau of Internal Revenue appears to be altering its position on taxing gains through liquidation. Until recently, the BIR consistently applied Philippine-U.S. Tax Treaty provisions exempting foreign companies from capital gains and corporate income tax on profit from the redemption and sale of shares by Philippine affiliates/subsidiaries being liquidated. However, in 2009, a BIR ruling involving foreign company held that such gains were subject to corporate income tax but not to capital gains tax. In another case, the BIR ruled that the gains were subject to tax on dividends. The companies and other interested parties have filed position papers with the Department of Finance to contest these rulings.
Inter-Company Transfer Pricing
Although the BIR has yet to finalize long-pending draft regulations on transfer pricing, it has declared that, as a matter of policy, it subscribes to the OECD's transfer pricing guidelines. In anticipation of the release of the final BIR regulations, multinational companies are weighing in on this issue with transfer pricing studies and/or benchmarking for their related-party transactions. Currently, the Tax Code authorizes the BIR to allocate income or deductions among related organizations or businesses, whether or not organized in the Philippines, if such allocation is necessary to prevent tax evasion.
Optional Standard Deduction
Domestic and foreign resident companies subject to regular income tax may claim an optional standard deduction of up to 40 percent of gross income, in lieu of itemized deductions per Republic Act (June 2008). Implementing regulations allow companies to use either the optional standard deduction or itemized deductions in filing their quarterly income tax returns. However, in the final consolidated return for the taxable year, companies must make a final choice between standard or itemized deductions for the purpose of determining final taxable income for the year.
Stock Transfer Tax
The stock transfer tax is an ad valorem, transactional tax on the sale of publicly-listed stock shares. The BIR does not consider the stock transfer tax as income tax; bilateral treaties that exempt foreign nationals from income or capital gains taxes therefore do not exempt them from the stock transfer tax.
International Financial Reporting Standards
BIR rules and regulations for tax accounting have not been fully harmonized with the Philippine Financial Reporting Standards, which are patterned after standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Board. The disparities between reports for financial accounting and tax accounting purposes can be an irritant between taxpayers and tax collectors. The BIR requires taxpayers to maintain records reconciling figures presented in financial statements and income tax returns.
OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The Philippine government currently does not provide guarantees against losses due to inconvertibility of currency or damage caused by war. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation can provide U.S. investors with political risk insurance for expropriation, inconvertibility and transfer, and political violence, based on its agreement with the Philippines. The Philippines is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency.
Managers of U.S.-based companies widely report a large, motivated work force in the Philippines that is easy to recruit and train. Low wages, as well as tax benefits and investment incentives offered in Special Economic Zones are other positive factors for investors. U.S. employers regularly report that Filipino workers respond well to productivity goals and wage incentives for increasing their output.
Literacy in both English and Filipino is relatively high, although there have been concerns in the business and education communities that English proficiency was on the decline, as noted in Department of Education data. The Department of Education, under its National English Proficiency Program, continues its efforts to strengthen English language training, including school-based mentoring programs for public elementary and secondary school teachers aimed at improving their English language skills.
Philippine labor is plentiful. In mid-2009, the Philippine labor force was estimated at 38.4 million, with an increase in the official unemployment rate at 7.6 percent in 2009, up from 7.4 in 2008 and 6.3 in 2007 percent in the previous year. This figure includes employment in the informal sector and does not capture the substantial underemployment in the country.
Special Economic Zones (ecozones) continue to play a significant role in attracting new investors to the country, often with on-site labor centers to assist investors with recruitment. These centers coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Social Security Agency, and can offers services such as mediating labor disputes. The ecozones have helped produce rapid growth in new jobs, as both Philippine and foreign firms seek the tax and other advantages of these areas devoted to fostering export industries. As of November 2009, over 600,000 Filipinos were estimated to be directly employed in zones regulated by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
Multinational managers report that total compensation packages tend to be comparable with those in neighboring countries. In the call center industry, the average labor cost is between $1.60 and $1.90 per hour. Regional Wage and Productivity Boards meet periodically in each of the country's 16 administrative regions to determine minimum wages, with the National Capital Board setting the national trend. As of January 2010, the non-agricultural daily minimum wage in the National Capital Region was PhP382 (approximately $8), although some private sector workers received less. Cost of living allowances are given across the board. Most other regions set their minimum wage significantly lower than Manila. The lowest minimum wage rates were in the Southern Tagalog Region, where daily agricultural wages were PhP187 ($4.20). Regional Boards may grant various exceptions to the minimum wage, depending on the type of industry and number of employees at a given firm.
Violation of minimum wage standards is common, especially non-payment of social security contributions, bonuses, and overtime. In 2009, President Arroyo signed a law offering relief for companies that had not been paying social security taxes for their employees, as an incentive to resume their social security remittances (R.A. 9903). Philippine law also provides for a comprehensive set of occupational safety and health standards, although workers do not have a legally-protected right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without risking loss of employment. DOLE has responsibility for safety inspection, but a severe shortage of inspectors makes enforcement extremely difficult.
There have been some reports of forced labor in connection with human trafficking for commercial sex activities.
The Constitution enshrines the right of workers to form and join trade unions. The mainstream trade union movement recognizes that its members' welfare is tied to the productivity of the economy and competitiveness of firms; frequent plant closures have made many unions even more willing to accept productivity-based employment packages. The trend among firms of using temporary contract labor continues to grow.
The number of strikes in the Philippines has been on the decline. The year 2009 saw a record low of four strikes, down from five in 2008 and 25 in 2004. The DOLE Secretary has the authority to end strikes and mandate a settlement between the parties in cases involving the national interest, which can include cases where companies face strong economic or competitive pressures in their industries. As of July 2009, there were 141 registered labor federations and 15,712 private sector unions. The 1.96 million union members represented approximately 5.2 percent of the total workforce of 37.8 million. Mainstream union federations typically enjoy a good working relationship with employers. Although labor laws apply equally to ecozones, unions have noted some difficulty organizing inside them.
The Philippines is a signatory to all International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on worker rights, but has faced challenges enforcing them. Unions allege that companies or local officials use illegal tactics to prevent them from organizing workers. The quasi-judicial National Labor Relations Commission reviews allegations of intimidation and discrimination in connection with union activities. In September 2009, the GRP welcomed an ILO mission to the Philippines to examine labor rights. The ILO will issue its report and recommendations in March 2010.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Trade Zones
Enterprises enjoy preferential tax treatment when located in ecozones. The Special Economic Zone Act (R.A. 7916, 1995) outlines the categories of such ecozones, including export processing zones, free trade zones, and certain industrial estates.
Enterprises located in ecozones also designated export processing zones are considered to be outside the customs territory and are allowed to import capital equipment and raw material free from customs duties, taxes, and other import restrictions. Goods imported into free trade zones may be stored, repacked, mixed, or otherwise manipulated without being subject to import duties. Goods imported into both export processing zones and free trade zones are exempt from the GRP's Selective Preshipment Advance Classification Scheme. While some ecozones have been designated as both export processing zones and free trade zones, individual businesses within them are only permitted to receive incentives under a single category.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) manages five government-owned export-processing zones (in Mactan, Bataan, Baguio, Cavite, and Pampanga) and administers incentives available to firms located in about 205 privately-owned and operated zones, technology parks and buildings. Any person, partnership, corporation, or business organization, regardless of nationality, control and/or ownership, may register as an export processing zone enterprise with PEZA. PEZA administrators have earned a reputation for maintaining clear and predictable investment environment within the zones of their authority. PEZA announced in early 2010 an investment goal target of PhP201.67 billion (over US4.1 billion) for the year.
Incentives for firms in export processing and free trade zones include:
- income tax holiday or exemption from corporate income tax and all local government imposts, fees, licenses or taxes, for four years, extendable to a maximum of eight years (this does not include exemption from real estate tax);
- machinery installed and operated in the economic zone of manufacturing, processing, or for industrial purposes shall be exempt from real estate taxes for the first three years of operation of such machinery;
- after the expiration of the income tax exemption, a special five percent tax rate on gross income in lieu of all national and local income taxes (with the exception of land owned by developers, which is subject to real property tax);
- tax and duty-free importation of capital equipment, raw materials, spare parts, supplies, breeding stocks, and genetic materials;
- exemptions from wharfage dues, export taxes, imposts and other fees; a tax credit on domestic capital equipment;
- tax credits on domestic breeding stocks and genetic materials;
- additional deductions for incremental labor costs and training expenses;
- unrestricted use of consigned equipment;
- remittance of earnings without prior approval from the Central Bank;
- domestic sales allowance equivalent to 30 percent of total export sales;
- permanent resident status for foreign investors and immediate family members;
- permission to hire foreign nationals;
- exemption from local business taxes; and,
- simplified import and export procedures.
Information technology parks located in the National Capital Region may serve only as locations for service-type activities, with no manufacturing operations. PEZA defines information technology as a collective term for various technologies involved in processing and transmitting information, which include computing, multimedia, telecommunications, and microelectronics.
Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA)
The ecozones located inside the two principal former U.S. military bases and several minor former bases are independent of PEZA and subject to separate legislation under the Bases Conversion Development Authority (created under R.A. 7227). The principal bases are the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Subic Bay, Zambales, and the Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Five independent operational zones were converted under the Bases Conversion Development Authority:
- Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone;
- Clark Special Economic Zone;
- John Hay Special Economic Zone;
- Poro Point Special Economic and Freeport Zone; and,
- Morong Special Economic Zone (Bataan Technology Park)
Firms operating inside the zones are exempt from import duties and national taxes on imports of capital equipment and raw materials needed for their operations within the zone. The zones are managed as separate customs territories. Products imported into the zones are exempt from the GRP's Selective Preshipment Advance Classification Scheme, with the exception of products imported for sale at duty-free retail establishments within the zones. Firms operating in the zones are required to pay only a five percent tax based on their gross income. Additionally, both Clark and Subic have their own international airports, power plants, telecommunications networks, housing complexes, and tourist facilities.
Regional Ecozones: Zamboanga and Cagayan
In addition to the PEZA zones and converted bases, two other privately-owned ecozones are independent of PEZA oversight: the Zamboanga City Economic Zone and Freeport, located in Zamboanga City, Mindanao; and the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, covering the city of Santa Ana, Cagayan Province, and adjacent islands. The incentives available to investors in these zones are very similar PEZA incentives, and are provided for by the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 (R.A. 7903) and the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 (R.A. 7922).
Capital Outflow Policy
Outward capital investments from the Philippines do not require prior approval from the Central Bank when the outward investments are funded by withdrawals from foreign currency deposit accounts; the funds to be invested are not purchased from the banking system or foreign exchange corporations that are subsidiaries/affiliates of banks; or, if sourced from the banking system or bank-affiliated foreign exchange corporations, the funds to be invested do not exceed $30 million per investor or per fund per year.
Outward investments exceeding $30 million funded with foreign exchange purchases from the banking system or bank-affiliated foreign exchange corporations are subject to prior Central Bank approval and registration. Qualified investors, such as mutual funds, pension or retirement funds, insurance companies, and such other funds or entities that the Central Bank determines as qualified investors, may apply for a higher, annual outward investment limit. All outward investments of banks in subsidiaries and affiliates abroad require prior Central Bank approval.
Applications to purchase foreign exchange from the banking system and from bank-affiliated foreign exchange corporations for outward investments should be accompanied by supporting documents and an affidavit of undertaking. Current regulations require that the foreign exchange proceeds from profits/dividends and capital divestments from such outward investments be inwardly remitted and sold for Philippine pesos within seven banking days from receipt of the funds abroad. Regulations do not require inward remittance of these proceeds if intended for reinvestment overseas, provided the funds are reinvested abroad within two banking days from receipt.
Foreign Direct Investment Statistics
The Philippine Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Board of Investments (BOI), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and the Central Bank each generate direct investment statistics. The Central Bank records actual investments based on balance of payments methodologies, readily available in US dollar terms. Central Bank data are widely used as a reasonably reliable indicator of foreign investment stock and foreign investment flows. They are published annually by country and industry. The Central Bank is currently working to improve measurement of foreign direct investment stock.
The figures in Tables 1 below refer to foreign direct investment stock reported by the Central Bank, based on the Philippines’ international investment position using a balance of payments framework; however, disaggregation by country and by industry is not available. Tables 2 and 3 provide annual net foreign direct investment flows. Table 4 provides a list of major foreign investors in the Philippines, using the latest available published information from the SEC. The United States is the Philippines’ largest foreign investor, with an estimated 20 percent share of the Philippines’ foreign direct investment stock as of year-end 2008.
Foreign Direct Investment Stock (US Millions)
Levels as of
FDI Stock as % of GDP a/
a/ Based on latest revised GDP levels.
Source: Central Bank (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas)
Net Foreign Direct Investment Flows By Investor Country (US Millions) a/
Total of which: b/
South Korea (ROK)
British Virgin Islands
Annual FDI Flow
As % of GDP
a/ Balance of Payments Net Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows which refer to non-resident placements less non-resident withdrawals, plus reinvested earnings, plus net intercompany loans.
b/ Countries listed above posted the largest cumulative inflows for the five-year period 2004 – 2008.
Source: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
Net Foreign Direct Investment Flows By Industry/Sector (US Millions)
Agriculture, Hunting, and Forestry
Mining and Quarrying
Electricity, Gas, and Water
Hotels and Restaurants
Transport, Storage, and
Others, Not Elsewhere Classified
Total FDI Flow
As % of GDP
a/ Balance of Payments Net FDI flows refer to non-resident placements less non-resident withdrawals, plus reinvested earnings, plus net intercompany loans. b/Covers non-resident investments in non-banks sourced from cross-border transactions survey industry statistics not available.
Source: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
Major Foreign Investors
|Name of Company in the Philippines||Nationality of Foreign Investor|
|1. Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp.||HK-Chinese b/|
|2. The AES Corporation||American ag/||930.0|
|3. Citibank N.A.||American c/ d/||719.2|
|4. Lafarge Holdings (Philippines), Inc.||French e/||705.0|
|5. Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., Ltd.||HK-Chinese c/ f/||648.2|
|6. Petron Corp.||Dutch g/||645.5|
|7. Intel Technology Philippines, Inc.||American h/ ae/||616.2|
|8. TI (Philippines), Inc.||American i/||523.6|
|9. Phil. American and General Insurance Co. ||American j/||514.5|
|10. Amkor Technology Philippines, Inc.||American k/||423.5|
|11. Team Sual Corp||Japanese l/||416.5|
|12. Rohm Electronics Philippines, Inc.||Japanese m/||387.7|
|13. Kepco Iligan Corp.||Korean n/||359.7|
|14. San Roque Power Corp.||Japanese o/||356.9|
|15. ING Bank N.V.||Dutch c/ p/||342.2|
|16. Team Energy Corp.||Japanese l/||335.2|
|17. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.||British q/||335.0|
|18. Coral Bay Nickel Corp.||Japanese r/||332.8|
|19. CE Casecnan Water and Energy Co., Inc.||American s/||327.6|
|20. Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc.||American t/||320.2|
|21. Ayala DBS Holdings, Inc.||Singaporean u/||283.0|
|22. Chevron Philippines, Inc.||American v/||279.0|
|23. Sun Life of Canada (Philippines), Inc.||Canadian w/||224.1|
|24. Mizuho Corporate Bank, Ltd.||Japanese c/ x/||210.5|
|25. Wyeth Philippines, Inc.||American y/ af/||208.9|
|26. Quezon Power, Inc.||American c/ z/||195.8|
|27. GlaxoSmithKline Philippines, Inc.||British aa/||156.5|
|28. KEPCO Philippines Corp.||Korean ab/||154.8|
|29. Toyota Motor Philippines Corp.||Japanese ac/||152.3|
|30. Steag State Power, Inc. ||German ad/||146.8|
|Source of Basic Data: “The Philippines 10,000 Corporations in the Philippines,” SEC Publication, Year 2009 edition|
a/ Refers to total book value of foreign and local equity as of 2008, unless otherwise specified. Original values expressed in pesos, and converted to US$ equivalents using end-2008 rate of 47.49 pesos/US$; b/ First Pacific Co., Ltd.; c/ Philippine branch; d/ Citibank, N.A.; e/ Financiere Lafarge S.A.S.; f/ Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., Ltd., The; g/ S E A Refinery Holdings B.V. (S E A BV); h/ Intel Corp.; i/ Texas Instruments, Inc.; j/ American International Group, Inc.; k/ Amkor Technology, Inc.; l/ Tokyo Electric Power Co. Int’l. B.V. & Marubeni Corp.; m/ Rohm Co., Ltd.; n/ Korea Electric Power; o/ Marubeni Corp.; p/ I N G Bank N.V.; q/ Royal Dutch Shell plc; r/ Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd.; s/ Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.; t/ Altria Group, Inc.; u/ Development Bank of Singapore; v/ Chevron Corp.; w/ Sun Life Financial, Inc.; x/ Mizuho Financial Group, Inc.; y/ Wyeth Corp.; z/ Covanta Energy Group, Inc.; aa/ GlaxoSmithkline plc; ab/ Korea Electric Power Corp.; ac/ Toyota Motor Corp.; ad/ RAG Stiftung; ae/ Under liquidation effective January 2009; af/ Merged with Pfizer, Inc. , becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer in January 2009; ag/Completed purchase and transfer of assets in April 2008