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Legislate ownership limits

Hananeel Bordey



The move in the House of Representatives to revise the ownership limits in the economic sectors of the country received a strong endorsement from former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who said Congress should have the power to legislate such constraints on businesses.

“Do not constitutionalize the restrictions, bring it down to the level of Congress to enact legislation to limit or impose restrictions whenever it becomes necessary,” Enrile said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Tribune.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is pushing for amendments in the economic provisions of the Charter with the goal of supporting a stronger economy under Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 2.

“I agree with the proposal to remove the restrictions on foreign ownerships with respect to every aspect of the economy except maybe media, advertisements and so forth,” Enrile noted.

He added that the exploitation and development of agriculture, minerals, natural resources, and energy should be opened up to foreign investments subject to restrictions as may be provided by law.

“You know, these limiting economic provisions were influenced by the local elite who wanted to monopolize our economy but they are not capable of generating capital,” Enrile said.

“Now the question arises, whose welfare should the State protect, that of big business who are already rich and has benefited from the limitations or the majority who have no work?” he asked.

The veteran public servant said it is a choice between allowing Filipinos to become rich or allowing people to have jobs.

He noted that it should be up to Congress to legislate instead of putting restrictions on the Constitution. “We must allow flexibility by giving Congress the power to restrict it if it becomes necessary,” Enrile said.

Applying the “unless otherwise provided by law” clause in the economic provisions where foreign ownership is restricted would be “better” for the economy, he indicated.

To have the restrictive provisions changed would be best done through a Constitutional amendment because it covers a lot of ground, he suggested.

“Through People’s Initiative, for instance, the changes that can be applied would be limited,” according to Enrile.

“Several provisions needed to be amended,” he noted. Take out Article 12 of the Constitution, he added.

The Article spells out the provisions on National Economy and Patrimony in which the limits on foreign ownership are included.

“We still have time for Charter change (Cha-cha), one year should be enough to do it,” according to Enrile.


No priority measure

Contrary to the legislative priorities of the House of Representatives, the Senate does not include Cha-cha in the list of bills that they will prioritize after the resumption of sessions on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday provided a list of priority measures that the senators will act upon.

Asked why Cha-cha is not included in the list, Zubiri said: “We are not talking about it yet.”

He said that it is best to ask Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who stated last week that he was not yet convinced that there is a need for Cha-cha, about the fate of the Charter amendments in the Senate.

In a statement Sunday, Zubiri’s counterpart — House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez — reaffirmed the Lower Chamber’s commitment to work on Charter change as pushed by Speaker Velasco.

Romualdez reiterated amendments to the so-called restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution will boost the Philippine economy.

Like what Romualdez committed, Zubiri said the Senate will focus on the ratification of bicameral committee reports of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE), Coco Farmers Trust fund, and the bill on Confirmation of Imperfect Land Titles.

The Senate will also pass the amendments to Republic Act (RA) 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 on third and final reading.

The following measures will be calendared for discussions in the Senate: amendments to Retail Trade Liberalization Act; bill increasing age of Statutory Rape; Amendments to Public services Act; Creation of the Department of OFW; E-Governance Act; Military and Uniformed Personnel Services Separation, Retirement and Pension Act; Expanded Solo parents welfare Act; and Internet Transactions Act.

The Senate also appealed to the House of Representatives to act on 12 measures that have no counterparts in the Lower Chamber.

These measures include the bill establishing separate prison facilities for heinous crimes convict, lowering height requirement for uniformed personnel, a bill prohibiting child marriages; creation of National Transportation Safety Board, a bill increasing teaching supplies allowance for public school teachers, to name a few.


Not in a hurry

Last week, Sotto said Senate will not be prioritizing talks on the matter, adding that they will only take up the matter after the House acted on the resolutions for the Constituent Assembly.

Sotto maintained that he doesn’t see any reason to amend the charter just to introduce the amendments on the so-called restrictive economic provisions.

“Offhand, I have yet to be convinced that we need a Charter change. When you say Charter change, you have to change the Constitution. You are changing the Constitution, not just Charter amendments. So, right now, I am not convinced that we need a Charter change or Cha-cha,” he said.

Liberalizing the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution could be the solution to the decades-old problem of forced migration caused by the lack of better opportunities in the country, according to Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera.

Herrera, the Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Representative in Congress, said the economic Charter amendments proposed by Speaker Velasco under RBH 2 would help attract foreign direct investments which will translate to more decent jobs for Filipinos and a stronger local economy. (With Chito Lozada, John Henry Dodson, and Francis Wakefield)