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Editorial

Overview

The Philippine electorate made waves in May 2016 by electing Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency. But for all his controversial social policies, there are certainly reasons for investors to be optimistic: the 71-year-old is an avowed enemy of red tape, and has pledged to support infrastructure and PPP projects. Foreign investors are also showing an interest in areas such as education, technology and healthcare, while Philippine corporates, which are growing in size and sophistication, are beginning to invest overseas.

Capital markets activity has been heating up since Duterte’s ascension in June; there have been several offshore offerings by Philippine issuers, but most buyers have been Philippine corporates and high-net-worth Filipinos. Since Philippine banks are remarkably liquid and willing to lend, foreign banks have no significant presence in the country, however it has been speculated that domestic banks will soon approach their lending limits.

Following the introduction of a new competition law in July 2015, the Philippine Competition Commission investigated San Miguel’s sale of its telecoms assets to PLDT and Globe Telecom, a competition inquiry on a scale unprecedented in the Philippines.

Tax disputes have been a key talking point, largely due to the relatively aggressive approach of the previous tax commissioner, Kim Jacinto-Henares; observers anticipate that the number of tax-related disputes should come down under the new commissioner, Cesar Dulay.

Renewable energy, particularly solar and hydroelectric, are becoming prominent staples of the energy sector, although coal is responsible for servicing about a third of the country’s energy needs.

The Data Privacy Act, implemented in full in the summer of 2016, will have compliance-related repercussions for clients in the public and private sectors.

The larger domestic firms – most notably Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALaw), Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles and SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan – continue to provide strong service across various practice areas. Although foreign firms are not permitted to establish an office in the Philippines, some have associate or member firms based in Manila offices, such as Quisumbing Torres, which is Baker & McKenzie LLP’s correspondent firm in the Philippines.

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