THE BOARD of Investments (BoI) has breached its P1-trillion 2019 investment target as of October, ranking Trade department (DTI) officials announced on Wednesday.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who is chairman of the BoI board, said at a press conference that the biggest investment approved by BoI in October was that of the Dennis Uy-led Dito Telecommunity Corp., the country’s third major telecommunication service provider. The China Telecommunications Corp.-backed Filipino telco said in November that it targets to corner a third of the Philippine market in two to three years.

Investments in energy, telecommunications and manufacturing fueled the increase in BoI-approved investments to some P1.1 trillion, said Mr. Lopez.

Last year, total investments approved by BoI reached P914.96 billion, accounting for the biggest chunk (57.4%) of the P1.084 trillion worth of investments approved by all seven major investment promotion agencies tracked by the Philippine Statistics Authority (besides BoI, they are the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, BoI-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Clark Development Corp., Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Philippine Economic Zone Authority and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority).

DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo, BoI managing head, said in the same briefing that he looks forward to bills designed to attract particularly more foreign direct investments (FDI).

Committed FDIs approved by BoI grew nearly fivefold to P68.871 billion last semester from P14.49 billion a year ago, accounting for more than a fifth of the agency’s P304.433-billion total haul in the same six months.

In the same press conference, Senator Ma. Imelda Josefa R. Marcos, who heads the Senate Economic Affairs committee, zeroed in on proposed amendments to Republic Act No. 7042, or the Foreign Investment Act of 1991.

Among others, the proposal reduced the minimum domestic employment requirement for small- and medium-sized domestic enterprises with paid-in capital of at least $100,000 to 15 from 50 direct hires. The provision is also present in the version of the House of Representatives. “I guess the most contentious provision would be the reduction of the capital requirement to a mere $100,000 and the reduction also of the minimum number of employees from 50 to a mere 15,” Ms. Marcos said. “Malaking bagay ’yan kasi maraming makakapag-invest (That’s a big deal because a lot more can invest). This will probably impact on our tourist infrastructure and the digital space where the startups are really very small.”

And while she said this means more small businesses will face foreign competition, “studies indicate that (those that will be affected are) a mere 11% (of small and medium scale enterprises),” hence, most “will not be directly threatened and, perhaps, will level up in fact.”

Mr. Lopez said BoI’s target for 2020 has been set at P1.5 trillion. — JPI