Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo justified on Wednesday the need to amend the Constitutional prohibition on land ownership by foreigners, which is a touchy subject for a lot of Filipinos.
“With respect to the prohibition on land ownership by foreigners, amending the provision by adding the clause ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ allows Congress to qualify permissible land ownership by foreigners,” said Quimbo, who shared her position to House colleagues during a virtual hearing of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments.
“Bakit natin pipigilin ang pag-aari ng lupa ng isang dayuhan kung kaya naman niyang palaguhin ang lupa at mag-empleyo ng maraming Pilipino? Pero kung papayagan natin ito, dapat lagyan ng safeguards (Why should we prevent foreigners from owning lands if he or she can develop it and employ many Filipinos in the process? But if we’re going to allow this, we should put safeguards in place),” said the deputy minority leader.
Neighboring countries can provide a blueprint for this, Quimbo noted.
“In other countries, such as Thailand, the general rule is that foreigners are not allowed to own land but there are exceptions where they are allowed to do so for residential purposes or for commercial activities in tourist spots or for business purposes within economic zones. Foreigners are not allowed to own land in military security areas. Baka pwedeng tulad nito ang gawing modelo ng Pilipinas (The Philippine model could be made similar to this),” she said.
“We can allow land ownership by foreigners only for specific purposes like manufacturing or tourism. We can disallow the purchase by foreigners of land for purposes of investment or speculation,” Quimbo explained.
“This is precisely the reason why the clause ‘unless otherwise provided for by law’ is a necessary amendment to the economic provisions in Article 12 of the Constitution,” the economist-solon said, alluding to Resolution of Both Houses 2 (RBH 2).
The Constitutional Amendments panel chaired by AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. held a six-hour discussion on the measure Wednesday.
Penned by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, RBH 2 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) of the 1987 Constitution, specifically by adding the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law.’
This phrase would allow Congress to enact laws that would make the country more foreign investor-friendly without prejudice to the Constitution–at least by theory.
“Congress needs the flexibility to debate and discuss and properly calibrate the restrictions and make them more competitive for foreign investments at least in the ASEAN and more responsive to an ever-changing economy,” Quimbo said.