House panel okays easing of economic Charter provisions

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    THE House committee on constitutional amendments yesterday approved Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s measure seeking to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution.

    Voting 62-3 with three abstentions, the panel chaired by Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin adopted Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which seeks to liberalize provisions in the Constitution which Velasco said “prevent us from becoming fully competitive with our Asian neighbors.”

    The measure 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).

    The panel excluded from the amendment Section 7 of Article 12 pertaining to foreign ownership of land in the Philippines, which states that “no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”

    The Constitution limits foreign ownership of land and businesses to only 40 percent, and reserves the other 60 percent to Filipino citizens or corporations.

    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.”

    “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,” Garbin said.

    The House leadership intends to amend the Constitution through the ordinary process of legislation while voting separately with senators based on the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote.

    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.

    He said 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 Speaker said the need to attract foreign capital is critical to support our economy’s recovery from COVID-19.

    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.