Press Release
December 15, 2021

Explanation of No Vote:
Senator Risa Hontiveros to the Amendment to the Public Service Act

I vote NO, and I would like to explain my vote.

I support the objective of inviting more foreign investors who will infuse capital and know-how for the improvement of our public utilities. I accept the principle that Congress has the power to define what services are a public utility and which ones are not.

In this respect I commend the sponsor and my colleagues for continuing to reserve our common carriers (our buses, jeepneys, taxis) and our seaports and airports mainly to Filipinos and to companies whose maximum foreign ownership is limited to 40 percent. I am saddened that many other critical services have been opened up to 100 percent foreign ownership by our bill when, as Senator Recto repeatedly proposed, we could have limited foreign participation say to 70 percent, which allows Filipinos and even the state to have direct knowledge of what goes on inside these critical facilities.

Specifically I also vote NO, because the Telecomms industry is being opened up by our Senate Bill to 100 percent foreign ownership, and we are doing this at a time when we have tech savvy neighbors as well as rogue non-state elements that are directly targeting facilities in the region, including government and military installations and other very critical infrastructure.

The country on the other hand does not not even have the rudiments of a cyber defense doctrine nor a cyber defense operations center that would allow us to engage in this new theater of international conflict. National Security Advisor Esperon admitted this to the Senate during a hearing exactly a year ago.

By allowing 100 percent foreign ownership we are opening our phones, and all our internet-connected devices, appliances and critical public facilities to foreign state and non-state interests that may have malevolent designs on our national security. This is a fact and the government is aware of the existence of these clear and present threats.

The face of conflict and warfare has been irreversibly altered Mr President and I fear that we have just brought our guards down.

This is why I vote no.

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