Questioning the timing of moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon yesterday recommended to postpone deliberations on Charter change until the 19th Congress in June 2022.
Speaking in a zoom interview, Drilon however clarified he was not objecting to charter change (chacha) as long as it would tackle only the easing of the economic provisions of the Constitution.
“I am not opposing to ease the Constitution when it comes to economic provisions,” he said.
“The question is- is it this at time? Can we not defer it until June of next year?” asked Drilon.
Aside from the lack of time for chacha, Drilon also cited the current health crisis the country is are facing.
“Given all the problems that we have – pandemic, budget deficit, lack of revenues – would we have enough time to prioritize all these problems? “
“For me, we should prioritize our attention to current problems that need immediate solutions,” also said the minority leader.
Drilon also noted liberalizing the country’s investment climate can be achieved by passing pending legislation in Congress and would no longer need amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
He said that there are many pending measures that we could approve and “we won’t need constitutional amendments in order to make our investment climate more liberal than where we are.”
Among these measures include amendments to the Public Service Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.
He said the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Reform Act, meanwhile, is pending bicameral approval.
Furthermore, he said there are a lot of factors that prevent the Philippines from attracting foreign direct investments other than “restrictive” economic provisions under the 1987 Constitution.
“For instance, our rule of law regime and our peace order issues,” said the Senate leader.
By legislation, he said the so-called economic provisions can be liberalized.
“The inconsistency of our rule of law, which should be the rule followed rather than the exception, the matter of peace and order, the matter of our problems insofar as corruption and red tape is concerned.”
“I am saying that currently, there are opportunities to liberalize our investment climate through legislation,” also said Drilon.
The House of Representatives has started debates to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution. House committee on constitutional amendments chair Alfredo Garbin said proposed changes to economic clauses could be approved soon.
Meanwhile, a congressional leader on Monday backed efforts of the House of Representatives to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. said it is about time that the provisions are changed because some foreign corporations easily get around the prohibition on foreign ownership anyway by resorting to dummying.
“It only makes sense that the questionable provisions are amended since foreign corporations have long been skirting the Constitutional prohibition on ownership of lands and businesses,” Barzaga, president of the National Unity Party said.
He said some mass media companies are able to operate in the country “and they are just using dummies, in direct violaton of our laws.”
The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership of land and businesses to only 40 percent and sets aside the other 60 percent exclusively to Filipino citizens or corporations, a provision which Barzaga pointed out is almost 100 years old since it was lifted from the 1935 Constitution.
The House committee on constitutional amendments last week started hearing Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s proposed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which seeks to liberalize these constitutional provisions which the Speaker said: “prevent us from becoming fully competitive with our Asian neighbors.”
The measure seeks to amend Sections 2, 3, 7, 10, and 11 of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Section 4 of Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports), and Section 11 of Article XVI (General Provisions) to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”
Barzaga said many foreign investors are being turned away by the prohibitive economic provisions of the Charter, depriving the country of the much-needed foreign direct investments.
In his province, he shared that some foreign corporations that are locators of the First Cavite Industrial Estate are complaining to him that they cannot even own lands where they are running their businesses.
The FCIE is a 159.5-hectare industrial subdivision built to service all basic needs of any manufacturing concern of the light-to-medium scale industry.
“We have corporations here in our country that are owned by Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and even some German companies, and they keep on saying, ‘Mayor, we cannot acquire (properties) where we are operating our business,” Barzaga said, noting that these investors complained on “restrictive land ownership” issues and “so they have a hard time investing continuously here in the country.”
The senior lawmaker said Japanese locators even told him that even if they will be allowed to own lands in the country, they won’t be able to bring it home since it is in the Philippines.
“The land, although it’s in our name, will still be in the Philippines,” Barzaga said, quoting Japanese investors. “And that (constitutional prohibition) deters the growth of your economy in the Philippines.”
Barzaga said that while the new Cha-cha drive is solely being pushed to change the Constitution’s economic provisions, he remains in favor of a shift to a parliamentary form of government so that “there will continuity as far as the Head of State is concerned as long as he’s doing good for the country.”
“In the presidential system, you have to stop after six years. If you have a bad President, no matter how bad, no matter how he is being rejected by the people, he has to serve office for six years. We will have to wait for another six years unlike sa parliament, that can be dissolved at anytime,” he said.
IN other news, Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution said on Monday that China will benefit the most if the Philippines change its constitutioin.
“I think, at this time, the main beneficiary of any sudden opening up the doors of foreign investment with respect to nationalist provisions is China,” lawyer Christian Monsod told ANC.
China’s economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic while Western countries are suffering due to fresh wave of coronavirus cases, he added.
“But do we realize what that means to us? We are opening doors, the one who will probably take advantage of it right away are the Chinese and they’re the ones who don’t know how to obey or follow international laws, they’re the ones who use force,” Monsod said.
The House of Representatives is set to resume its hearings on the proposed charter amendments.
The measure seeks to amend provisions in the Constitution that prevent foreign ownership of land and businesses in the country.
The proposed easing of restrictions is also sought on the ownership and management of mass media, public utility, educational institutions, investments, and capital to foreign investors.
Monsod said using the pandemic as a reason for revising economic provisions of the Constitution is a short-term view.
“The problem is they’re representing foreign direct investment as a magic bullet. The fact is, the Philippines is the worst-performing in our area of the world, both on the economy and on handling the pandemic,” he said.
“We have to set our house in order first before it becomes attractive to foreign direct investments.”
The Philippines, Monsod said, has not been attractive to foreign investors because of wrong policies and weak institutions.
China continues to disregard the ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration, upholding the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The Hague-based tribunal rejected China’s historic claim to resources in the South China Sea using its 9-dash line doctrine.
Other countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims in the vital sea lane.