House launches plenary debates on Charter change; proponents optimistic of support

Published February 22, 2021, 7:21 PM

by Ben Rosario

The House of Representatives on Monday, February 22 launched the plenary debates for the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, with authors expressing optimism of strong support from a huge majority of House members.

MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. , chairman of the House  Committee on Constitutional Amendments, stressed significance of passing Resolution of Both Houses No. 2  that seeks to amend economic provisions of the Charter.

RBH No. 2 is authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

Garbin was joined by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte-Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means , and Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo in delivering sponsorship speeches batting for the adoption of the measure.

In his sponsorship speech, Garbin argued that “it is wise for Congress to amend the Constitution by adding the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in order to give the government enough flexibility to consider different circumstances prevailing at different stages our road to economic development before formulating policies that should be time bound.” 

Garbin emphasized that economic conditions “are never static, so must the fundamental law be freed from the constraint of rigidity. While it is reduced to writing, it should not be devoid of the element of flexibility.” 

According to Garbin, observers have pointed out that the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions “have proven to be a bane, rather than a boon for the country, for they have restricted or discouraged the flow of foreign direct investments.” 

“While these provisions may be very well-meaning and appear to favor the interests of Filipinos, over the long haul, the country and the common good of all Filipinos suffer,” added Garbin.

These experts, he said, “believe in the need to amend the Constitution to eliminate these overly protective provisions to attract more foreign investments and to adopt policies to enable the country to compete more effectively in the global economy.”

The legislator was referring to provisions of the Constitution that limit foreign ownership in business enterprises operating in the country, including public utilities.

In his sponsorship speech, Salceda gave a comparison of the economic situations of Philippines and Vietnam, noting that the latter “was so successful in attracting foreign investments with its market openness.”

According to Salceda the ten barriers to foreign direct investments that were listed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are present in the Philippine situation.

“In fact, we are so restrictive that we are the tightest in the region across almost every key sector, except manufacturing,” he said.

For her part, Quimbo also blamed the restrictive provisions of the 1987 Constitution for the economic difficulties faced by the country.

“The purpose of this move is not to simply open the flood gates and allow foreign companies to crowd out our local businesses.  It is not a free pass,” she said.

Quimbo stressed: “By including the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ the measure provides flexibility to these econommic provisions, but still allows the legislature to address the fear of some of our countrymen that we will be inundated with foreign businesses, to the detriment of local industry.”

 
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