By Chito Chavez
The Inter-Agency Task Force Constitutional Reform (CORE) has received the support of the Department of Finance (DOF) in pushing for the removal of economic restrictions in the Constitution including the ban on foreign investments in some industries.
However, the Task Force on Wednesday said it still favors the retention of 100 percent of land ownership to Filipino citizens only.
Finance expert and Task Force CORE member Gary Olivar said that relaxing the restrictions on foreign investment in the country is part of President Duterte’s 10-point agenda for governance upon assuming the presidency in 2016.
He revealed the President has sought this strategy as a means of attracting more foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the country as the Philippines has had the lowest record among Southeast Asian countries in FDI entry.
“Over the last 10 years, infrastructure (development) is also the poorest record in the Philippines compared to the six major ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as of 2015. (With regards to) economic growth, we have been left behind by our neighbors, we are now number 63 in a survey taken in 185 countries a few years ago. And because of all of these, this policy (of restrictions in foreign investments), poverty is still rampant, we are the only country in ASEAN that has failed to cut this poverty by half in the last 25 years,” said Olivar.
The Task Force had been tasked to study and conduct a national consultation process on his constitutional reform agenda, and the DILG has tapped academic, economic, political and social experts to study and craft the changes in the Constitution needed to carry out President Duterte’s reform agenda.
Earlier, DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said the lifting of those restrictions on foreign investments is among the constitutional reforms recommended by the DILG to the House of Representatives last week.
Malaya noted the Task Force recommended amendments to the Constitution included the proposed political and electoral reforms needed to curve and stop vote-buying, election cheating, and party-switching before and after every election.
Olivar cited in the case of the proposed economic reforms, the two chambers of Congress may be inclined to remedy the situation by simply inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the current provisions of the 1987 Constitution that imposes the rigid restriction on foreign investments in the country.
“They (DOF) would like to go a little further, totally eliminate all references to citizenship restrictions with respect to industries like mass media and advertising, education institutions, the practice of professions, natural resources, mineral wealth, and public utilities where we find 60-40 restrictions,” he added.
“This is the only way forward to open our economy and bring in foreign investments that will then create the jobs and technology that we need to continue moving forward even after this President,” Olivar concluded.
To recall, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has started tackling proposed amendments to the political and economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution in line with calls to review the country’s social and governance system.