THE SENATE can be expected to approve a measure easing foreign investment restrictions next year, a key lawmaker said.

Senator Imee R. Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate’s Economic Affairs committee, said the chamber will resume plenary deliberations of the bill when Congress resumes work on Jan. 20, 2020.

“Malamang next year na kasi ang daming nira-rush (That bill will likely be approved next year because other priorities are being rushed…),” Ms. Marcos said on the sidelines of a Dec. 10 media event in Pasay City, particularly citing the measure further raising tax rates on alcohol products, electronic cigarettes and vapor products that was approved on Dec. 18, ahead of lawmakers’ Dec. 21, 2019-Jan. 19, 2020 Christmas-New Year break.

She cited the possibility that the measure may hurdle the bicameral conference committee before the first regular session ends on June 5 next year.

“I’m hopeful,” Ms. Marcos said when asked on that possibility. “Sa palagay ko papasok na dahil, unang-una, ’yung House natapos na; ikalawa, ilang beses na nabanggit ni Presidente doon sa kanyang SoNA at sa iba’t-ibang business chambers at foreign group (I would think it stands a chance of approval by then because, first of all it has been approved by the House and, secondly, it has been cited by the President in his State of the Nation Address and by various business chambers and foreign groups).”

Other Senate leaders would not respond to requests for comment on when this measure could be approved.

The proposed amendment to the decades-old Republic Act No. 7042, or the Foreign Investment Act of 1991, is among the administration’s legislative priorities for the first regular session of the 18th Congress. It is also on the list of bills that 14 local and foreign business groups submitted to Malacañang and Congress last July.

The measure, under House Bill No. 300, secured final-reading approval at the House of Representatives on Sept. 9.

The House version excludes “practice of profession” from the coverage of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), a provision absent in Senate Bill No. 1156.

Both versions also reduce the minimum employment requirement to 15 from 50 direct local hires for small- and medium-sized domestic enterprises that are established by foreign investors with paid-in capital of at least $100,000.

Hindi naman (This measure is not) contentious as such pero siguro (but) there are divergent opinions on whether we should have a very basic scheme putting limits at $100,000 or 15 employees as opposed to the old much more demanding higher requirement,” Ms. Marcos said.

The bill also provided that the FINL be amended annually, instead of the current two-year interval. The 11th FINL was updated in October 2018, three years and five months since the last FINL was issued in May 2015, under then president Benigno S.C. Aquino III. — Charmaine A. Tadalan