THE Senate will discuss a “more ambitious” amendment to the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) after the budget is approved, Economic Affairs committee chair and Senator Ma. Imelda Josefa R. Marcos said.

“I don’t see any easy sailing for the Foreign Investments Act,” Ms. Marcos told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

“It’s inevitably, extremely controversial but there’s no doubt that we need to start with a new investment act.”

The proposed amendment of Republic Act No. 7042, or the FIA of 1991, will make the Philippines less restrictive to foreign investment, and has been named a top priority of the economic development cluster for the first regular session of the 18th Congress, which closes on June 5 next year.

It is also included in the list of bills, supported by 14 local and foreign business groups, which was submitted to the Office of the President and the two chambers of Congress at the session opening.

“I think immediately after the budget, after all the foreign investment act is one of the priority measures of the administration,” she said when asked when the debates will be held.

“It’s already been passed on third reading in the House but they have much simplier version. I believe ours is a little more ambitious.”

The bill among others proposed to create the Investment Promotions Council, to be led by the Trade Secretary, to integrate efforts to attract foreign investment.

It also lowered the minimum employment requirement to 15 from 50 direct local hires for small- and medium-sized domestic enterprises with paid-in capital of at least $100,000. The provision is also present in the House version.

The bill also introduces new penalties ranging from P1 million to 20 million in fines and imprisonment of 6 to 30 years for graft and corrupt practices.

The House of Representatives, in its counterpart House Bill No. 300, excludes the “practice of profession” from the coverage of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL). The bill passed on final reading on Sept. 9.

The measure nearly made it out of the 17th Congress after securing third-reading approval in the House in January, but failed to make it out of the Senate before the June 3 adjournment. — Charmaine A. Tadalan