‘Philippines exclusion from TPP makes economic Cha-cha more urgent’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ non-inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc has given Congress an impetus to push through with amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.

With the inability of the country to join the TPP, it has become more urgent for the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass the proposed Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which seeks to ease the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

“In a challenging global environment, we need to be more competitive and inclusive,” Belmonte said, adding the Philippines is “near the bottom” in terms of attracting foreign directive investments (FDI) in the region.

Belmonte, who is a principal author of RBH 1, said the proposal does not directly amend the Constitution but simply empowers Congress to respond swiftly to threats and opportunities in a constantly changing global economic environment.

The country was not able to join the TPP owing to certain restrictions in the Constitution. Countries in the region that are now part of the TPP are Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

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

RBH 1 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 Congress enacts laws to remove them.

The measure was set for approval on third and final reading by the House leadership but a last-minute call from Malacañang aborted the voting.

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, a majority member for the House committee on trade and industry, called for the passage of RBH 1 to allow the country’s inclusion in the TPP.

“The House must grab the chance to bring a significant economic improvement to the Philippines by enabling the country to join the TPP,” he said. “One measure we should do to be a TPP member is to relax the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution. Time is of the essence here.”

ACIRC BELMONTE CONSTITUTION CULTURE AND SPORTS GENERAL PROVISIONS NATIONAL ECONOMY AND PATRIMONY RESOLUTION OF BOTH HOUSES NO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SHERWIN GATCHALIAN SINGAPORE AND VIETNAM
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