Biz groups press Senate to ditch Cha-cha, say₧14-B tag on Con-con ‘better spent’ for people


LOCAL business groups are asking the Senate to consider, among others, the cost to be allocated for a Constitutional-convention (Con-con) to amend the Charter, noting at least P14 billion of such allocation could be “better spent” on pro-people programs, such as on agriculture.

The Makati Business Club (MBC), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), Justice Reform Initiative, Filipina CEO Circle, Philippine Women’s Economic Network Inc., and Women Business Council Philippines issued a joint statement on Friday wherein they listed the points that they think the Senate should consider as it deliberates on whether to support current House-led moves to amend the Constitution.

The “most significant” of these moves, they noted, is the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 7352 calling for a Constitutional Convention to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The business groups emphasized the estimated financial cost could reach as high as P28 billion. With this, they said funds could be better spent on “pro-people programs.”

“The Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) estimates a Constitutional Convention would cost P14 billion to P28 billion,” the statement of the groups read.

They also noted that HB 7352, the bill calling for a Con-con, proposes 300 delegates who would get P10,000 per day, or a total of P3 million per day, or more than P400 million for the seven-month project.

“We believe these funds can be better used on agriculture to address the high inflation, transportation to enable Filipinos to get to work and home in much less time, and needed social services like health, education, and social security,” the groups stressed.

For the low-end estimated cost of P14 billion, they said the government could instead double the spending on farm-to-market roads; increase by half the spending on irrigation or the national rice program; double the spending on school buildings; or almost double the spending on hospitals and health centers.

Moreover, while the groups said they have long supported proposals to amend economic provisions of the Constitution that “impede” trade, investment, innovation, competition, and economic and job growth, they believe recently enacted reforms have addressed many of these “impediments.”

These economic reforms are the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investment Act, the passage of the Rice Trade Liberalization Act, and the most recent one, the Department of Energy (DOE) circular allowing 100-percent foreign ownership in the renewable energy sector.

“We believe that these reforms, combined with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s efforts to revive local and foreign investment, can accelerate recovery and job growth at a time when the Philippines and the world face serious economic headwinds,” the business groups added.

The groups also noted that investors look for “stability” when making investment decisions.

As such, they said, “the possibly lengthy and fractious process of amending the Constitution may make investors take a wait and see attitude for an extended period of time and therefore derail the impact of the reforms.”

The business groups said the Senate should also consider that Congress has yet to pass at least two more tax reform bills and other measures such as the “highly commendable/meritorious” Ease of Paying Taxes bill.

They added these can “greatly enhance” government revenue and job creation at this critical time.

“We respectfully urge the Senate—and the House, if and when the deliberations progress—to consider these and other points raised by our colleagues in various sectors as you decide on this potentially disruptive proposal at a time when the country may be poised to regain its economic momentum,” the business groups noted.

With supermajority votes of 301, the House of Representatives on March 14 endorsed for Senate approval the proposed Constitutional Convention Act, the accompanying bill of the Resolution of Both Houses 6 calling for a Con-con.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez repeatedly assured the public that the House constitutional reform initiative only aims to rewrite the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution to enable the country to attract more foreign investments.