MANILA, Philippines — Fresh attempts to amend the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions just got the support of the head of President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team.
“I am for really opening up the economy in all areas possible, with the exception of land ownership. Because the issue of land ownership is so emotional any mention of that will stop the whole program,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told an online conference on Tuesday.
Dominguez gave the Duterte administration’s first categorical support to the revival of Charter change talks at the House of Representatives where deliberations will start on Wednesday and targeted to proceed for the entire year.
Asked about the timing of the proposal, which comes 15 months before the next presidential elections, the finance chief distanced himself from popular suspicions that amending the 33-year-old charter at this time would only allow leaders to tinker with term limits and lengthen their stay in power.
“I don’t know. I think we should open it. I think we should open the economy more. Now if there are people who want to discuss political…and the other stuff to keep themselves in power, I think the public would react to that if they don’t like,” he said.
Governments since the Ramos administration have tried but failed to introduce changes to the Constitution, precisely because of fears that leaders are out to perpetuate themselves in power like dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. that ruled for more than 3 decades before getting thrown out of office in 1986.
Under the Duterte government, Cha-cha proposals ranged from a complete overhaul of government system to federalism, which failed, to a more palatable lifting of 40% foreign ownership limit on industries like public utilities.
Lawmakers allied with President Rodrigo Duterte said the latter is what they are trying to do in a bid to attract foreign investments and supposedly assist the economy’s recovery from the pandemic. Dominguez believed this is the right thing to do, especially on sectors like retail, trade and construction.
“Opening up the economy challenges the local production and actually they respond positively,” he said.
“I think we should open the economy more,” he added.