July 9, 2018 / 9:42 AM / a month ago

Philippines' draft charter keeps foreign ownership limits in some sectors of economy

MANILA (Reuters) - A proposed new constitution in the Philippines would keep restrictions on foreign ownership of companies, land and public utilities, but ease limits in media and advertising, according to a draft of the charter released on Monday.

The draft constitution also removes a single-term limit for the country’s president, but current leader Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he would not seek a second term under a new charter.

A 22-member panel that is reviewing the 1987 constitution submitted its draft to Duterte on Monday. Congress will begin debating the proposed constitution this month, aiming to put it to the public in a referendum next year.

According to the draft seen by Reuters, there is no change to the 40 percent cap on foreign ownership of corporations, public utilities and land. It does allow 30 percent foreign ownership of media and advertising businesses.

Investors have been frustrated at being shut out of some sectors in a market of more than 100 million Filipinos, either squeezed by local monopolies or regulations that limit foreign investments.

Government spokesman Harry Roque said the draft charter was a significant step in the move to a federal system of government that aimed to boost the economy and grant provinces more autonomy.

“We’re hoping that Congress will give it much weight,” Roque said told reporters.

Under the proposed charter, all elected officials, including the president and vice president, will serve a four-year term with possible re-election for a second term.

The president and vice president are currently elected for six years and barred from running for a second term.

Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo will keep their position in the transition period until elections are called under the new constitution in May 2022.

Shifting to a federal system has been Duterte’s priority since coming to office two years ago, saying he will step down immediately and urge new elections under the new constitution.

An opinion survey conducted in March found that only 37 percent of Filipinos agree with the shift to a federal system of government.

Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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