Guide for foreigners: Starting a business in the Philippines

Guide for foreigners: Starting a business in the Philippines

Home to one of the best performing economies in Southeast Asia in the recent years, the Philippines is attracting a lot of interest from investors. As a foreigner, here are some of the things you should know if you’re planning on starting a new business in the Philippines.

Different types of corporate entities

Before you open your business in the Philippines, it’s important to understand the difference between corporate entities in the country.

  • Sole proprietorship

Your business is a sole proprietorship if there is only one individual (you) who fully owns and control the company. You reap the full benefits of the business and is responsible for all its liabilities and responsibilities. The law does not make a distinction between a sole proprietor’s personal affairs and business transactions; meaning that creditors may go after the properties and assets of the business, and as well as your own personal assets and property. However, if you are a foreigner starting a business as a sole proprietor in the Philippines, you may put up a business in industries where the Constitution and other laws do not put a restriction or limitation on ownership equity. In addition, for a foreigner to be able to start his own sole proprietorship business, he must be able to have a minimum paid in capital equal to USD$200,000.00. Otherwise, a setting up a corporation may be the only alternative method to do business, a foreigner can have up to 40% ownership in a corporation.

  • Partnership

Unlike a sole proprietorship, a business partnership involves two or more individuals. It could be a general partnership, which entails unlimited liability, or a limited partnership, in which some of the business partners only have limited liability on par with their investment.

Partnerships are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission if the capital exceeds three thousand pesos (3,000.00.)

Note that partnerships that are considered general professional partnerships (partnerships formed by persons for the sole purpose of exercising their common profession, no part of the income of which is derived from engaging in any trade or business) are subject to income tax as partners in a general professional partnership are be liable for income tax only in their separate and individual capacities.

  • Corporation

A business is considered a corporation if it has 5 to 15 incorporators, each with their own stakes in the company. Like in a limited partnership, stockholders in a corporation have limited liability that is equal to their share capital.

If majority (60 percent) of the shareholders are Filipino, the corporation is considered Filipino-owned. Meanwhile, if the majority are foreigners, the corporation will then be classified as foreign-owned.

There are two types of corporations: stock and non-stock, the main difference being non-stock corporations do not issue shares. Corporations are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Setting up a business as a foreigner in the Philippines can be a complicated process, which is why contacting your local chamber of commerce could be a big help. They can provide you with local market insight and set up networking opportunities.

Some of the national and international chambers of commerce in the Philippines include:


As a foreigner, there are several restrictions to owning and starting a business in the Philippines. Some of the restrictions are as follows:

  • Foreign ownership is limited to only 40 percent in select industries such as manufacturing of explosives and firearms, military hardware, and massage clinics.
  • Foreign ownership is even lower in other sectors, such as private employee recruitment firms (25 percent), advertising (30 percent), private radio communications networks (20 percent), and construction of locally funded public works (25 percent).
  • Mass media, small-scale mining, marine resources, private security, and manufacture of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic paraphernalia are strictly off-limits to foreign equity.

For more information about foreign investment and ownership in the Philippines, check out this article.

A common route for plenty of foreign nationals is to partner with Filipino friends to start a Filipino-owned corporation (60-percent Filipino, 40-percent foreign in terms of ownership). Others marry a Filipino, who can either fully own the company, become their partner, or own 60 percent of the corporation.

Start your business in the Philippines with FilePino

Contact us today at +1.806.553.6552 (USA) or +63.917.8922337 (PH), or send us a message here to learn more about business opportunities in the Philippines.