‘Key Cabinet members back recasting of economic provisions’

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CABINET members have expressed support for the initiative of the House of Representatives to rewrite the Constitution’s “restrictive” economic provisions, a lawmaker claimed on Wednesday.

“We are encouraged by the statements/position papers of members of the President’s economic team and of the Cabinet who share our desire and goal for the country to attract more foreign investments through economic reform in the Constitution,” Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the second district of Cagayan de Oro City said.

The latest member of the President’s economic team to support the House constitutional amendment push is Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, he said.

“We are heartened by Secretary Diokno’s supportive statement. He is an influential voice in the administration and in the business community,” Rodriguez added.

Moreover, the lawmaker cited the position papers presented to his committee by Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, National Economic and Development Authority Director General Arsenio Balisacan, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

The five departments were among the agencies that the Rodriguez committee officially requested to present position papers on Charter Change in recent public hearings held at the House of Representatives.

The DTI headed by Pascual said enacted laws provide some space for liberalization in certain sectors of the economy such as foreign investment, retail trade and telecommunications.

“However, we note that several foreign equity restrictions are still enshrined in the Constitution, rather in an investment law or sectoral legislation, which actually makes economic reform more challenging…I think we’re the only two countries [the other is Myanmar] that have economic restrictions, foreign [investment] limitations that are enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.

For his part, Balisacan said “NEDA would be open to revisiting or amending the restrictive economic provisions…in line with, of course, the goal of propelling our growth, projecting our global position upward.”

Abalos told the committee that his department has written its Core Constitutional Reform Handbook, which advocates Charter amendments, including “liberalizing citizenship-based restrictions on foreign direct investment.”

DSWD’s  Gatchalian said, “we believe that amending the Constitution is timely and necessary, particularly the economic provisions that are already outdated and are no longer in the context of the present economic situation.”

The DFA chief, moreover said during the hearing that “a lot of foreigners want to retire in our country, but they want to own their retirement home. They end up, more often than not, marrying a Filipina, as a workaround. They want to own an investment, it’s very difficult for them.”

Rodriguez said local governments grouped under Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, led by Quirino Gov. Dakila Cua, have also supported the House initiative.

“Whether through the process of a constituent assembly or constitutional convention, we can clearly see that some changes are necessary to address the various challenges the country is facing,” Cua said in a position paper submitted to the House.