Economic Cha-cha still not urgent in Senate, may be taken up after SONA

Published June 2, 2021, 10:21 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate still does not seem to think that revising the Constitution is an urgent measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate of the Philippines (Senate PRIB)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that senators may tackle their counterpart’s proposed economic Charter change (Cha-cha) after President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.

“We will probably be able to discuss it when we resume after the SONA,” he said in a message sent to reporters Tuesday night, June 1, after the lower chamber adopted the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution’s “restrictive” economic provisions by allowing legislators to tweak foreign participation in sectors.

Sotto said the measure will have “better chances” of being approved in the Senate if the amendments are indeed limited to economic concerns, “specially if not covered by the Public Service Act or Foreign Investments Act we are passing.”

In a television interview earlier, the Senate leader said their chamber will not anymore have the time to take up the economic Cha-cha since they have their hands full of more urgent bills to pass before Congress adjourns sine die on June 4.

Sessions will resume on July 25, on the day of President’s SONA.

Sotto said members of the House of Representatives, even the Department of Finance “did not even bring it up” when they were discussing priority measures fro the Duterte administration during a recent meeting.

“It was not in the top 10. Hindi naman certified (It was not even certified as urgent),” Sotto told ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday, May 31.

He said the bills that they are currently tackling, such as the proposed amendments to the Foreign Investments Act and Public Service Act, which Duterte wanted quickly passed, will be a “good solution” to the constitutional restrictions and further opening up the Philippines to more foreign investors.

The Senate recently approved on final reading the proposed revisions to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act — also certified as urgent by Duterte.

“But then again, we are not talking about charter change. Really, I have to be very blunt about it. In the Senate, the way I up my colleagues, a big majority are not in favor of a charter change. I myself. But if we are talking of charter amendments, amendment, then that is possible,” Sotto said.