Economic Cha-cha, BBL Noy’s legacies – House leaders

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Amending the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to boost the inflow of foreign direct investments to create more jobs and put the country on a solid growth path is one of the lasting legacies the Aquino administration could leave to Filipinos, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the ongoing legislative process to pass Resolution of Both Houses 1 (RBH1), which seeks to ease constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of certain economic sectors will also help ensure the success of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Rodriguez also chairs the ad hoc committee deliberating on the BBL, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

“The key to growth, proven countless times in countries that became developed, is investments,” Rodriguez said.

“Simply put, that is foreign money, foreign expertise and technology coming in, because we don’t have those, because our Constitution is not dynamic or flexible enough to take advantage of global economic opportunities that are invariably grabbed by other nations,” he said.

Rodriguez pointed out the situation in which the country can grow economically by removing the constitutional restrictions.

“Do we really want to grow? Do we really want to create jobs? Do we Filipinos really want to secure our future for our children? We are in a situation but there are constitutional barriers that we can remove, that is, if we want it,” he said.

“The best legacy the administration can leave behind is peace and stable growth because that will reinforce the environment for respect for the rule of law,” he added.

Rodriguez said the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the BBL, which is expected to be passed by Congress early next year, will in great part take care of the peace and security issues in Mindanao.

However, the fast-improving peace and order situation in southern Philippines may not last long if this cannot be sustained by economic growth that will reduce massive joblessness in one of the most impoverished regions in the country, he said.

Rodriguez said a survey of East Asian economies and their approaches to foreign investment policies showed that, invariably, the mode of regulation by all the countries is by legislative action rather than by constitutional mandate.

Rodriguez and Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian earlier said the country’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as the benefits it can obtain in the ASEAN integration in 2015 hinges on easing restrictions in the Constitution.

Rodriguez said the TPP is emerging as the biggest trading bloc of the world with $622 trillion in combined economy and with the population of about two billion.

The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership of certain industries to only 40 percent.

RBH1, authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in Articles XII (National Economy and Patrimony), XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions) of the Constitution.

This means the restrictions remain until future Congresses enact laws to remove them.

Belmonte, in filing the resolution, said the phrase “simply provides the key” to unlock constitutional barriers and allow the country to take hold of foreign capital moving around the globe.

Belmonte said in his resolution that in the ASEAN region, the Philippines’ share of foreign direct investment during the period 2009-2011 averaged only 1.8 percent while Singapore got the lion’s share of FDI at 54 percent, followed by Indonesia at 15 percent, Vietnam at 9.1 percent, Malaysia at 8.9 percent, and Thailand at 8.6 percent.

‘Only quorum needed’

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said enough quorum should be mustered to allow the chamber to pass the measure on second reading before Congress goes on a Christmas break.

Unlike other bills that can be passed with a simple majority, Gonzales said RBH1 must be approved by a three-fourths vote of the 290-member House.

“We must make sure that there is enough quorum that this will be properly voted upon,” Gonzales said, adding a majority of the members are supporting the measure.

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