The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest organization of business owners in the country, on Monday, aired reservations on the timing and manner of the proposed amendments to the economic restrictions in the 1987 Constitution being pushed at the House of Representatives.
In a statement, PCCI President Ambassador Benedicto V. Yujuico said the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the provisions initiated by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco may weaken the country’s supreme law.
“While it may be the fastest option, inserting the provision ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in sections of the Constitution that limit foreign equity to 40 percent in business ventures that are considered of critical interest to the Filipino people could potentially weaken the country’s highest law by making it easier for ordinary legislation to amend the Constitution,” Yujuico explained.
Velasco on Sunday insisted that revising the restrictive economic provisions could pave the way for economic recovery and improvement as the entry of foreign investments would support domestic jobs and create physical knowledge capital in various industries.
Yujuico explained that instead of focusing on the charter change on economic provisions, he suggested the government should prioritize bills that will support the country’s strong recovery, especially in this new year when there are positive developments in the discovery and rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.
The PCCI president insisted that the government should first pass monumental reforms to make the economy bounce back from the pandemic by building resilience against natural and man-made disasters through the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act.
He said it is one step away from being enacted into law. He also pushed for the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act.
“PCCI supports initiatives to liberalize the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to enhance the country’s competitive position globally, encourage more foreign direct investments and address monopolistic, uncompetitive behaviors and under-investments in some sectors critical to public interest but this should be done in a deliberate and careful manner that will continue to make the Constitution withstand various economic interests but especially the test of time,” Yujuico said.
He also stressed that there are other bills pending in Congress that will open certain doors to the economy that the Constitution has kept locked against the entry of foreign investors.
“Among these is the Public Service Act Amendment, which has been approved by the House of Representatives and is pending before the Senate Committee on Public Services. The bill lifts limitations on foreign equity ownership in some sectors currently classified as public utilities, including telecommunications and transport,” Yujuico emphasized.
He further stated that the pending bill limits public utility to three sectors: Distribution of electricity; the transmission of electricity and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline.
The business leader expressed that his group is hoping for the bill to be enacted before the end of the 18th Congress.
Velasco’s proposed resolution filed at the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments proposes to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Sections 2, 3, 7, 10, and 11 of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Section 4 of Article XIV (Education, Science, and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and Section 11 of Article XVI (General Provisions), which he said would allow Congress to enact laws to free up the economy to foreign investors or maintain the status quo.
Velasco also proposed to amend Articles 12, 14, and 16 to lift the 40-percent foreign ownership restrictions of lands, public utilities, educational institutions and mass media corporations.