Fears that politicians will “hijack” proposals to amend the 34-year-old Constitution for self-serving purposes should not deter efforts to address its restrictive economic provisions, according to a business analyst.
Wallace Forum founder Peter Wallace said this fear “has been with us through four presidencies; time and time again, constitutional change has been deferred because of this fear.”
“Well, that fear will be with us in the next administration and the next, and the one after that. We have to bite the bullet some time. I believe that time is now, while we have a President in favor of opening up the economy,” Wallace wrote in his column.
He said with the whole world in the midst of a global depression, the Philippines needs as much foreign direct investments as possible for the economy to recover and that business restrictions no longer make sense under a globalized economy.
“The only ones who might object to opening up are Filipino businessmen who’d see their business opportunities threatened,” said Wallace, who is also the honorary chair of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
Wallace echoed the points raised by economists who argue that Filipino consumers stand to benefit from increased competition that could result from opening up the economy to foreign direct investment, one of the objectives of moves to amend the 1987 Charter.
“Filipino people have suffered because foreigners can’t come in to help us advance the development of our public utilities, or help us with their expertise as professionals. The Constitution is imposing senseless restrictions that benefit no one,” he said.
The House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments recently voted to adopt resolution of both Houses put forward by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, which proposes to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution and makes no mention of the term limits of elected officials.
In public hearings on the measure, committee chair and AKO Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. repeatedly assured the public that term limits would not be covered by the resolution and constantly emphasized that discussions on amending the Constitution only revolved around its restrictive economic provisions.
“Wala hong term extension, wala hong lifting of term limit, wala hong political provisions,” Garbin said.