House panel adopts Velasco’s resolution on economic charter amendments

BOAC, Marinduque — Voting 64-3 with 3 abstentions, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday adopted a resolution filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco seeking to give Congress the flexibility to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to help the Philippine economy recover from COVID-19.

The panel, chaired by Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., approved Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 that seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to specific provisions of the Constitution, namely five amendments to Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), one amendment to Article XIV (Education, Science, and Technology), and one amendment to Article XVI (General Provisions).

However, the committee excluded from the resolution the proposed amendment to Section 7 of Article XII referring to the ban on foreign ownership of land.

The approval of RBH No. 2 incidentally coincided with the 34th anniversary of the ratification of the 1987 Charter, which Garbin described as a “living Constitution” that is “far from being perfect.”

“When the people ratified the 1987 Constitution containing limitations on foreign ownership and participation on certain economic activities, it was their desire at that time to make the limitations specific. However, the Constitution is not unchangeable,” Garbin said.

“It is about time we correct this unintended anomaly by introducing an amendment that gives the legislature the freedom to amend those time-bound laws that have been enshrined in the Constitution to the detriment of the common good of the Filipinos now and in the future,” he pointed out.

Speaker Velasco sought to liberalize the restrictive economic constitutional provisions to allow Congress to enact laws that will free up the economy to foreign investors and provide much-needed economic relief to Filipinos in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Velasco, foreign investment plays a crucial role in the Philippine economy by supporting domestic jobs and the creation of physical and knowledge capital across a range of industries.

“The need to attract foreign capital is critical to support our economy’s recovery from COVID-19,” Velasco said.

Velasco’s resolution has the backing of all major political parties and power blocs in the House of Representatives who have earlier signed a manifesto in support of RBH 2.

The signatories to the manifesto were House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez for Lakas-CMD, Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon, Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit for the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers for the Nacionalista Party, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. for the National Unity Party, Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab for Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero for the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc., and Aurora Rep. Rommel Rico Angara for the independent bloc.

A number of economists agreed that lifting foreign investment restrictions could improve foreign direct investment or FDI inflows into the Philippines, particularly in areas restricted in the Constitution.

Relaxing the economic Charter provisions, they said, would open the door to establish a platform for promoting stronger investments and a more inclusive economic development.

Following consultations with economists and experts, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda came up with projections on the economic benefits of RBH No. 2.

The chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means said the resolution could lead to an additional average annual FDI of PHP330 billion pesos (US$6.8 billion) and generate 6.6 million jobs over a 10-year period.

A report by the 38th Global Investment Trends Monitor recently revealed that FDI flows into the Philippines for 2020 amounted to US$6.4 billion.

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