Philippines: Relaxation of National Requirement

Published on Nov 9, 2022

For Public Utilities

The Revised 2022 IRR retains the requirement that, for projects requiring a public utility franchise for its operation, the operator must be (i) a Filipino, or (ii) if a corporation, must be duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and owned up to at least 60% by Filipinos; or (iii) if a consortium of local and foreign firms, Filipinos must have at least 60% interest in said consortium.

Given the passage of Republic Act No. 11659, which amended Commonwealth Act No. 146, otherwise known as the Public Service Act, the term “public utility” now has a narrower definition and refers only to a public service that operates, manages or controls for public use any of the following: (i) distribution of electricity; (ii) transmission of electricity; (iii) petroleum and petroleum products pipeline transmission systems; (iv) water pipeline distribution systems and wastewater pipeline systems, including sewerage pipeline systems; (v) seaports; and (vi) public utility vehicles. Thus, other activities that previously required a franchise, including the operation of railways and airports, are no longer considered public utilities and do not require any minimum Filipino ownership.

For Solar, Wind and Hydro Power Projects

The Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it is preparing the necessary amendments to Rule 6, Section 19 of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Renewable Act of 2008 to lift the 40% cap on foreign ownership of renewable energy project proponents.

This development came after the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) issued on 29 September 0222 DOJ Opinion No. 21 opining that the exploration, development, and utilization of inexhaustible renewable energy sources are not subject to the 40% foreign equity limitation provided under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. Said provision reads that “[a]ll lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production- sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60% of whose capital is owned by such citizens.”

In said opinion, the DOJ said that the enumeration accompanying the term "natural resources" are properties that are within the State's power of dominium pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine (such as lands, fisheries, forests, and wildlife), which are all susceptible to appropriation and, thus, excludes the sun, the wind, and the ocean. The DOJ also said that constitutional debates centered on the strong concern and fear against fully opening to foreign exploitation the natural resources in Section 2, Article XII as it may lead to the possibility of running out of these limited and exhaustible resources. Thus, this compelling reason behind the imposition of the foreign ownership cap finds no application to inexhaustible renewable energy sources.

The DOJ further noted that limiting participation in these renewable energy projects will work only to the detriment of the country as there is no clear evil to be remedied and the adoption of these inexhaustible renewable energy source technologies would not only help in the attainment of a healthful and balanced ecology but also provide clean energy that would not be subject to price fluctuations and market forces similar to fossil fuels. Finally, the DOJ noted that the technical knowledge and experience, as well as the immense capital required to set up these inexhaustible renewable energy power stations to utilize solar, wind, hydro and ocean or tidal energies is akin to large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, which necessitates the aid of foreign capital, technology and/or expertise.

For more information about the legal issuances discussed in this bulletin, please contact Arlene M. Maneja or Bhong Paulo A. Macasaet at +632 8982 3500 or via email at /