Velasco urges amendments to Constitution to relax investment regulations to attract foreign investors

Published December 5, 2020, 4:20 PM

by Ben Rosario

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is batting for amendments to the 1987 Constitution that would relax the country’s investment regulations in order to attract more foreign investments, especially in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (Lord Allan Velasco’s Office / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

While admitting that there may not be enough time to pursue the amendments, Velasco told leaders and members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines (JFC) and local business groups that the House of Representatives will have to continue tackling the constitutional proposals.

“Notwithstanding, this overdue constitutional amendment should be tackled and addressed with finality in the next Congress,” Velasco told the JFC in a virtual conference on Thursday.

According to the House leader, time is again running out against the bid to amend the Charter, adding that this is further burdened by the need for the 18th Congress to attend to other equally important legislative matters. 

In the meantime, Velasco said the Lower House will continue to work on several legislative measure that would help spur foreign investments into the country.

Among the bills that are on top of the  chamber’s list of legislative priorities are the Coconut Trust Fund Bill; the proposed National Land Use Act; and the amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law and the Contractor’s License Law.

In his speech, Velasco said more foreign investments in agriculture and manufacturing would also mean more local jobs for Filipinos.

“We sorely need investments in these sectors — massive and sufficient — to generate and sustain employment,” Velasco said in his speech during the 9th ARANGKADA Philippines Forum titled “Foreign Investment in the Post-Pandemic Philippines.”

Velasco said agriculture and manufacturing should be major sources of employment, especially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a huge number of them forced to return home amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House leader noted that  OFWs were first to get laid off because foreign countries needed to take care of their own workers first. 

“Would it not have been better if, in the first place, our workers did not have to go abroad to find quality employment?” 

“Unfortunately, one of the most crippling structural weaknesses in the Philippine economy is the underperformance of our agriculture and manufacturing sectors,” he said.

To lure more foreign investors, Velasco said the country would need to relax its business regulations to make them more friendly to foreign investments.

The Marinduque solon then called for the enactment of investment-related legislative proposals, especially those espoused by the JFC and Philippine business groups.

So far, the Lower House has already passed and transmitted to the Senate the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Act and the Foreign Investment Act.

At the same time, Velasco emphasized the need to address the “bottlenecks that hinder the efficient operation of our industries and the flow of capital and resources to sectors that need them the most and where they are assured of the highest returns.”

Among the legislative measures commonly being pushed by Velasco and business groups are the proposed Rural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act that the House had already approved on third reading.

Velasco said the House had also approved on final reading strong support measures, such as the proposed Internet Transactions Act and amendments to the Anti-Red Tape Act.

The Internet Transactions Bill aims to update the country’s regulatory environment towards the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs, which comprise 99 percent of all businesses in the country, while at the same time protecting the consumers of online goods and services.

The proposed amendments to the Anti-Red Tape Act seek to further expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits.