By Billy Begas
The House of Representatives on Monday started the plenary deliberation on the proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chairman Alfredo Garbin Jr., House Committee on Ways and Means chairman Joey Salceda and House Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo sponsored Resolution of Both Houses no. 2.
Garbin said experts have pointed out that the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions “have proven to be a bane, rather than a boon for the country, for they have restricted or discouraged the flow of foreign direct investments”.
He said that amending the Constitution by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in order to give Congress enough flexibility to consider different circumstances in formulating needed policies.
The “unless otherwise provided by law” phrase is proposed to be inserted in several sections in Articles XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology), and Article XVI (General Provisions) of the Constitution.
“While these provisions may be very well-meaning and appear to favor the interests of Filipinos, over the long haul, the country and the common good of all Filipinos suffer,” added Garbin.
Amending the Constitution aimed to attract more foreign investments and to adopt policies to enable the country to compete more effectively in the global economy.
Salceda cited Vietnam as the “clearest evidence that we should not have tied our own hands behind our backs in attracting foreign investments”.
He said Vietnam began to loosen its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) restrictions in what was known as the ‘Doi Moi’ reforms in 1987 around the same time the country imposed the restriction on foreign ownership enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
“The figures from that era onward, for both countries, show a history of contrasts. As Vietnam opened its economy, FDIs began to flow. Vietnam began to overtake us in FDI-to-GDP by 1990, just 3 years after Doi Moi and the 1987 Constitution,” said Salceda.
In 2019, the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development FDI restrictiveness index shows that the Philippines is among the world’s most restrictive countries to FDI. The same index shows that we are the worst in ASEAN.
For those questioning the timing of the proposed amendments, Quimbo said she agree “because it is in fact overdue. Dapat po kahapon pa natin binago ang Saligang Batas upang bigyan ang Kongreso ng kakayahan na buksan ang ilang piling sektor ng ekonomiya.”
“Bakit natin kelangan buksan ang ekonomiya? Simple lang po. Kulang ang kapital ng mga negosyanteng Pilipino. Ano ang ebidensya? Ang 2.2 million na OFWs. Dahil kulang ang kapital sa ating bansa, kulang ang trabaho para sa ating mga kababayan. Ang ending, kelangan mag imbayong dagat, kelangan iwanan ang pamilya para lang kumita ng pera. When a country’s domestic capital is lacking, we simply need to look for more foreign business partners. Unfortunately, our laws are too restrictive to allow the inflow of foreign capital,” said Quimbo.
Garbin earlier said that the House leadership plans to approve the measure before the session adjourns for the Holy Week break on March 26.