The Makati Business Club (MBC) has questioned the timing of the proposed amendments of the economic provisions of the Constitution as it comes a year before the presidential elections in May 2022.
The Makati-based business organization joined other business groups in opposing moves to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution at this period.
MBC, however, said it has consistently and vigorously supported initiatives to introduce flexibility to the restrictive economic provisions embedded in our Constitution.
“We continue to support this initiative but we believe that introducing any Charter change 15 months before presidential elections will only raise fears that other constitutional changes, some of which may be highly controversial, may be introduced and passed,” MBC said in a statement.
Thus, MBC said, any attempt at Charter change now will be highly divisive at a time when our country still needs to be totally united in our efforts to overcome the ill effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
MBC instead urged all major presidential and congressional candidates in the coming 2022 elections to express their support for the relaxation of restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution and commit to initiate steps for the adoption of such provisions within the first 12 months of their term.
Earlier, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest business organization, called on the government to focus on economic recovery and building resilience against natural and man-made disaster rather than the proposed amendments to 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 rollout in the Philippines, which remains chaotic and unorganized.
Aside from the vaccine inoculation issue, PCCI President Ambassador 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 three sectors – distribution of electricity; transmission of electricity, and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline.
PCCI is hoping the bills enactment 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 percent 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.