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Despite Noy’s rejection, SB to push for Charter change

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is not giving up on efforts to push for amendments to the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution in the incoming 16th Congress.

Acknowledging that Charter change appears to be not a priority of President Aquino, he said he feels “duty bound to be talking about it.”

“Charter change is dear to my heart but only with respect to the economic provisions that I have been talking about,” Belmonte told reporters.

“I know that the President has said that he wasn’t in favor of it but I will continue to try to make representations here, or to talk to him on it,” he said.

He said he remained hopeful that Aquino would support Charter reforms to attract investments and create jobs through an act of Congress.

Aquino, after meeting Belmonte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile last year, said he was forming a study group led by his economic managers to look into various proposals to amend the Constitution.

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Up to now, however, Aquino remains cool to the proposals being pushed by local and foreign business groups, including the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC).

Business groups said the lack of capital in many areas of the economy is hampering the country’s growth. The domestic economy could not raise enough funds to fuel more investments, they said.

The JFC is in favor of relaxing restrictions of foreign investments on certain sectors and ownership of land.

Belmonte earlier said the amendments need not be controversial and complicated, as Congress could just insert the provision “unless otherwise provided by law” in various restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution to empower Congress and the President to make competitive laws that would adapt to the constantly changing global economic environment.

“Now is the time to reflect on the needed structural reforms towards inclusive and sustained growth, and the key element of inclusive growth is job generation,” Belmonte said in a previous speech before the business community.

“To increase jobs, we must boost investments, and there’s no going around that,” he said.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who is expected to be the minority leader in the 16th Congress, backed Belmonte’s renewed efforts to amend the Constitution.

“Yes, I am open to Cha-cha (Charter change). I am just being consistent with my initial position. But I think the primordial question is how do we actually amend it,” Romualdez told reporters.

Romualdez was one of the lawmakers who spearheaded a signature drive to convene the House into a constituent assembly during the 14th Congress.

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