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Congressman pushes removal of land lease limits on foreigners

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By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

CONGRESS should look at removing land lease limits on foreign investors instead of extending the period to 99 years, a congressman said on Wednesday.

The government will keep the power to cancel the land lease contracts with foreign investors in case of violations, Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda told BusinessWorld.

“I generally believe there should be no limits to the right to lease property,” he said in a Viber message. “It’s a cancelable contract that can be subject to rules and safeguards anyway.”

A proposal to allow foreign investors to lease land for up to 99 years from 75 years was added to the Marcos government’s legislative priorities last month.

Assistant Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. Marissa P. Magsino told BusinessWorld she’s looking at filing a bill extending the maximum lease period to 99 years to entice foreign investors.

“Increasing the length of leasehold agreements on land would make some projects more attractive to foreign investors since some investments require longer payback periods,” she said in a Viber message.

“The length of tenure will be such that investors will be encouraged to invest more and make long-term projections,” she added.

Ms. Magsino, a member of the House land use committee, said the Investors’ Lease Act of 1993 should be amended to ensure that land lease agreements with foreign investors are in pursuit of “current or projected investments.”

The removal of limits or extension of land lease rights for foreign investors circumvents the 1987 Constitution, which bars foreign land ownership, Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro told BusinessWorld on Thursday.

“It would allow [foreigners] to own land for 100 years, removing the rights of Filipinos to use the land being leased by [foreign investors],” she said in Filipino.

She is doubtful that the government would terminate the land lease agreements of erring foreign investors. “I have yet to see a foreign investor or company’s land lease being revoked due to their failure to abide by laws.”

The proposal is not meant to go around the Constitution, Mr. Salceda said.

The government should ensure that land leases do not compromise the rights of Filipinos to own land, Ms. Magsino said.

“The state must… ensure that the entry of foreign investors does not compromise the constitutional imperative of preserving land ownership for Filipino citizens,” she added.

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