The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s largest business organization, is calling on government to focus on economic recovery and building resilience against natural and man-made disasters measures rather than the proposed amendments on the Constitution.
Known as the “Voice of Philippine business”, PCCI questioned the timing of the proposed Charter amendments that seek to amend its prohibitive economic provisions when there are more pressing issues to tackle in this new year. Foremost, PCCI cited the positive development of the COVID-19 vaccines and their roll-out in the Philippines, which remained chaotic and unorganized.
Aside from the vaccine inoculation issue, PCCI President Amb. Benedicto V. Yujuico pointed to the economic reform bills that the Duterte must prioritize but have remained pending.
“Government should prioritize bills that will support the country’s strong recovery. These include the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, which is one step away from being enacted into law, and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act,” said Yujuico.
PCCI also said there are other bills pending in Congress that will open certain doors to the economy that the Constitution has kept locked against the entry of foreign investors.
Among these is the Public Service Act Amendment, which has been approved by the House of Representatives and is pending at the Senate Committee on Public Services. The bill lifts limitations on foreign equity ownership on some sectors currently classified as public utility. These include telecommunications and transport. It limits public utility to 3 sectors: distribution of electricity; transmission of electricity and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline. PCCI is hoping the for the bill to be enacted before the end of the 18th Congress.
Nonetheless, Yujuico said that PCCI supports initiatives to liberalize the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to enhance the country’s competitive position globally, encourage more foreign direct investments and address monopolistic, uncompetitive behaviors and under-investments in some sectors critical to public interest.
But he also stressed this “should be done in a deliberate and careful manner that will continue to make the Constitution withstand various economic interests but especially the test of time.”
PCCI is cautious at the timing and manner by which the Constitution is being proposed to be amended.
“While it may be the fastest option, inserting the provision ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in sections of the Constitution that limit foreign equity to 40% in business ventures that are considered of critical interest to the Filipino people, could potentially weaken the country’s highest law by making it easier for ordinary legislation to amend the Constitution,” Yujuico explained.