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‘To encourage investments, the Philippines should alter the foreign ownership cap.’

MANILA, Philippines — The Norwegian government and business sector are eager to invest more in renewable energy in the Philippines, but the current cap on foreign ownership of enterprises needs to be altered, according to Norwegian Ambassador Bjorn Jahnsen.

After a courtesy call on President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday, Jahnsen told the media that the Norwegian government and a number of Norwegian corporations are particularly interested in investing in offshore wind, solar, and hydro energy.

“Norway has made significant investments in renewable energy in the Philippines, and more firms and investments are expected in the future years — offshore wind, floating solar, and hydro.” So, that’s the idea for Norway and the Philippines in the future, to really grow our footprint on renewable energy in the country,” he explained.

However, Jahnsen acknowledged that attracting renewable energy investments would necessitate “some modifications” and a policy shift on the part of the Philippine government, particularly in terms of foreign ownership.

“For example, foreign firms should be able to control a majority of equity in these types of ventures since they frequently involve multibillion-dollar investments, and overseas investors would appreciate the assurance of owning a majority interest in their investments,” Jahnsen said.

Foreigners are only allowed to own up to 40% of enterprises functioning in the Philippines under the 1987 Constitution, with the remaining 60% being owned by Filipinos.

According to Jahnsen, accessing offshore wind energy might provide roughly 50,000 “good-paying” jobs for Filipinos, citing a World Bank research titled “A Roadmap on Offshore Wind for the Philippines.”

“If you are successful in creating this new industry (offshore wind energy), the World Bank talks about up to 50,000 jobs, well paying jobs,” Jahnsen said.

Norway can also provide technical assistance to the Philippines in its transition to renewable energy, notably offshore wind energy, according to Jahnsen.

“Right now, one of the first significant initiatives of this kind is being built in Norway. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Philippines in terms of energy supply. As you may be aware, the country’s economy is expanding, and energy consumption is rising. As a result, offshore wind is one of your best future options,” Jahnsen added.

Senator Imee Marcos, Marcos’ sister, introduced Senate Bill No. 1024 during the 18th Congress, with the goal of “amending the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 and easing limits on foreign direct investments in order to lure more multinational firms to the Philippines.”

Foreigners in some commercial sectors will be granted full ownership of corporations operating in the Philippines under the proposed measure.

Meanwhile, Romanian Ambassador Raduta Dana Matache said her country is eager to assist the incoming Marcos administration in its efforts to access renewable energy at a separate press briefing following her courtesy visit to the president-elect yesterday.

“In Romania, for the past two decades, clean energy has provided 50% of our energy consumption – 25% from nuclear power and 25% from hydroelectric power plants. This is non-polluting energy. Every country in the world is interested in figuring out how to increase the usage of renewable energy sources. And I believe we’ve agreed that there’s plenty of possibility for collaboration in this area,” Matache remarked.

Finland’s ambassador, Juha Markus Pyykkö, has asked Marcos Jr. to support the Philippine government’s criticism of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Pyykkö cited President Duterte’s signing of a United Nations General Assembly resolution last February, which joined 140 countries in “explicit condemnation” of Russia for its “unprovoked armed aggression” against Ukraine, when speaking to the media after his courtesy call on Marcos at his Mandaluyong City headquarters yesterday.

“The Philippines has been among the countries criticizing the aggression, and what I transmit to the president-elect is that I hope his administration will continue to appreciate and respect the Philippine stance in the future,” Pyykkö said.

Pyykkö said Finland and the Philippines can cooperate in areas such as commerce, cyber security, maritime security, and upholding international laws, and that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine was a “serious infringement of international law and the international-rule-based order.”

“As a member of the European Union, we wish to contribute to the maintaining of international law and rule-based order,” Pyykkö stated.

“The Philippines has traditionally been a very active and loyal member of the United Nations,” he said, “therefore we must endeavor to preserve the multilateral international rules-based system, which is very vital.”

Pyykkö bemoaned the fact that Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer land border with Russia, had been impacted by the latter’s action against Ukraine.

“That has completely altered the security situation in my country and the surrounding area.” And, as an act of aggression by Russia, it is a violation of international law; it is not a European matter, but a worldwide international issue,” Pyykkö stated.

Russian Ambassador Marat Pavlov paid Marcos a courtesy call only last Monday.

The conflict situation in Ukraine was mentioned “quite briefly” during Pavlov’s conversation with Marcos, he said.

“As far as I understand it, the president-elect wants to maintain his autonomous [foreign] policy while cooperating with Russia,” Pavlov added.

Instead, Pavlov stated that he highlighted Russia’s willingness to assist the Philippines in meeting its energy needs, including oil, gas, and other sources.

During the campaign, Marcos maintained a neutral stance on the Russian-Ukraine crisis, claiming that the Philippines did not need to take sides. He later issued a statement in which he stated that he stands with the rest of the world in calling for Russia to “respect Ukraine’s freedom and democratic way of life.”

In a separate courtesy call on Marcos yesterday, Hungary’s Ambassador Titanilla Toth said her country is willing to increase cooperation with the Philippines in the fields of agriculture, water technology, and education, and that more scholarships for Filipinos may be provided.

According to Toth, Hungary is also willing to expand job opportunities for Filipinos, particularly in the hospitality and electronics industries.

Ambassador Bartinah Ntombizodwa Radebe-Netshitenzhe of South Africa also paid a courtesy call, stating that she and the president-elect had committed to collaborate in promoting and protecting human rights, the rule of law, and good governance.

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