Economic charter changes to ensure PH flexibility to inevitable transformations in world trade

Published February 14, 2021, 1:09 PM

by Ben Rosario

Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo on Sunday underscored the necessity of amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, stressing that the move will give Philippines the flexibility to  address unpreventable changes in world economic conditions.

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Quimbo reiterated her argument in support of Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 (RBH2)  which the Lower House will deliberate on starting Monday, February 15.

A respected economist with a doctorate in economics from the University of the Philippines, Quimbo aired the hope that the legislative measure will get positive action in the Lower Chamber.

Her main argument in support of RBH2 is contained in a letter to the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments that the House panel adopted with 64 affirmative and three negative votes recently.

Quimbo emphasized that “the only permanent thing in an economy is change.”

“If the Constitution holds important economic structures such as control over capital, access to resources, barriers to entry as fixed, we will be left behind. Talagang maiiwan tayo sa pansitan kung hindi natin buksan ang ating pintuan, Mr. Chair, (We will be truly left too far behind if we will not open our door)” Quimbo said.

The Marikina lawmaker clarified that contrary to concerns that the proposed amendments would allow for the unregulated influx of foreign capital that would threaten local industries, “the proposal under RBH2 is not a free pass for all foreign investments to come in.” 

“That is the brilliance of it—it provides flexibility but still allows the legislature to address the fear of some of our countrymen that we will be inundated with foreign business leaving local industry to wither away. The phrase to be added,  ‘unless otherwise provided by law,’ is both liberating and serves as a protection clause. It allows our economic regulations to evolve with the times,” she explained. 

The legislator pointed out that as  1987 Constitutional Commission member Dr. Bernardo Villegas stated in the committee hearings, the economic provisions in the Constitution were originally written when the Philippines was the “Sick Man of Asia” and “had little to gain from opening up and arguably more to gain from protectionist policies.” 

“Fast forward to today, the Philippine economy has metamorphosed. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, it was, prior to COVID, one of the most promising developing economies, slated to move up to upper-middle-income status in 2020,” added Quimbo. 

“But with the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be realizing that such status can only be achieved if we are in a better position to compete for foreign investments, which we are fast losing to countries such as Vietnam,” warned the lawmaker. As the country prepares for economic recovery post-pandemic, Quimbo, however, added that “we need to act now. We need to introduce flexibility into the economic provisions of our Constitution so that the Legislature has leg room to steer the economy according to the demands of the time.”

 
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