THE Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) has called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into whether foreign retailers are violating the rules on minimum investment levels to operate in the Philippines.
“I recommend that DTI review the registrations of all these Chinese, Korean, etc restaurants, groceries, tiangge stalls, etc. to check if there are violations,” Roberto S. Claudio, vice-chair of the business group, said in a mobile message on Monday.
Mr. Claudio said, however, that it may be difficult to get a clear picture of the situation as some use dummies or joint ventures to dodge Republic Act No. 8762, or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, which requires foreigners seeking to fully own a retail business to have $2.5 million in minimum paid-up capital.
Under the law, full foreign ownership is only valid in the first two years while the maximum stake is capped at 60% thereafter. Meanwhile, a $7.5-million capital investment entitles the foreign party to retain full ownership indefinitely.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the DTI has regional offices to ensure that retailers are operating within the bounds of the law.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lopez said “the general policy is toward liberalization to encourage more investments and job creation for Filipinos.”
The DTI, along with other economic departments, proposed a $200,000 capitalization level to operate here, which is reflected in House Bill No. 9057, which has so far made it to second-reading approval.
Meanwhile, the counterpart measure at the Senate, Senate Bill 1639, which aims to eradicate all investment thresholds, is encountering opposition from small and medium-sized local retailers.
The PRA warned that the removal or the lowering of the minimum investment to the proposed level will further ease out domestic retailers.
Instead, the PRA proposes the encouragement of local-foreign joint ventures as a win-win situation to encourage more foreign investment at the same time protecting our Filipino entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, DTI’s Mr. Lopez said he supports Senator Panfilo M. Lacson’s call to shut businesses that provide services exclusively to certain nationalities like the Chinese.
“Bawal ang (It is illegal to have) a Chinese-only policy in any store. Or catering to a specific nationality,” Mr. Lopez said in a mobile message to reporters on Tuesday, adding businesses should put up signage in various languages to adapt to their new customers. — Janina C. Lim