This edition of ASEAN Regulatory Brief features a decline in internet freedom in ASEAN, regulatory issues on solar energy in the Philippines, and a mooted local language test for expatriates in Indonesia.
Most ASEAN countries decline in internet freedom
US based think-tank Freedom House in its Freedom on the Net 2015 report stated that global internet freedom has declined for the fifth consecutive year. The report looks at internet freedom in 65 countries based on three criteria – obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. A total of 0 is considered most free, while 100 is least free. Countries with scores from 0-30 are considered ‘free’, 31-60 are ‘partly free’ and 61-100 are ‘least free’.
In the ASEAN region, Philippines had a score of 27, making it the only country in Southeast Asia with internet freedom. China with a score of 88 is the least free. Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia all saw declines in internet freedom as compared to last year. In addition, while Philippines has the freest internet, it only has a partly free press. The organization further stated that most governments censored information of public interest, while also expanding surveillance. Issues that made government delete web content included political, religious and social topics.
Philippines: Regulations related to solar energy still costly, time-consuming
Companies wishing to invest in solar energy find the regulations cumbersome and costly. Recently, German international development firm Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) stated that permits to install solar plants in Philippines were complex and time-consuming, which added to further costs. The firm further stated that the entire administrative process could take up to two years, while costs for solar plants in the rage of 20-30 megawatts could cost US $1 million or more. While the government has provided incentives for developing renewable energy, companies still find it difficult to deal with regulations.
Solar companies want the government to quadruple the size of incentives and speed up project approvals. At present, 500 megawatts of solar capacity is entitled to guaranteed prices for 20 years; however industry group Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA) wants this extended to 2 gigawatts. In addition, regulatory approval to convert land into solar firms and other clearances takes too long. Reports also state that financing is difficult due to a rule which stated that projects need to be 80 percent complete before developers can apply to receive minimum tariffs.
Indonesian officials decide against language tests for foreign workers
Recent media reports in October stated that the Indonesian government will not make foreign workers take language tests to demonstrate proficiency in Bahasa – the country’s official language. The director of foreign workers further stated that there is no language requirement for foreigners. Earlier in March, the government decided against language tests for foreigners seeking work permits, following protests by the business community. The most recent development also applies to foreign workers seeking to extend their work permits and will thus not be required to take language tests.
However government officials have stated that while foreign workers will not be required to take language tests, it is still recommended they learn Bahasa to pass own expertise and skills to local workers. In addition, a senior government official also stated that while the government would not impose any language requirements, local government could decide to adopt such measures. The development also suggests the unpredictable and inconsistent regulatory work environment, which has been a complaint for foreign businesses with operations in the country.
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