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Big business groups want economic Cha-cha

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The business community has united to rally behind proposals to change economic provisions of the Constitution.

Philippine business groups and foreign chambers of commerce called on Congress over the weekend to urgently pass the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution.

They said it is high time for the country to do so as it makes its bid to secure more ambitious bilateral and regional trade agreements.

“We reiterate our call for the early approval of Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 (RBH 1). We also respectfully urge our congressmen and senators to make history and swiftly pass this reform measure that will aid in our joint effort to improve the country’s investment climate, create more and better jobs for Filipinos, reduce poverty, and achieve inclusive growth,” the local and foreign business groups in a statement.

RBH 1, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in some sections of Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports) and XVI (general provisions).

The resolution has been approved on second reading in the plenary with the third reading vote requiring approval of three-fourths of the members of the House of Representatives.

The business community said RBH 1 is the first serious effort to undertake the often recommended reform to replace the constitutional restrictions on foreign equity with specific laws.

“The constitutions of almost all countries in the world do not contain restrictions on foreign investment. Most countries who do impose some restrictions on foreign investment do so through legislation or administrative orders that can be changed to suit shifting national priorities,” the business groups said.

The groups stressed that much has changed in Asia since the restrictions were placed in the 1987 Constitution and the Philippines in particular has joined the World Trade Organization, agreed to open trade and investment within ASEAN and with ASEAN Plus partners.

Despite the development, however, the groups said high poverty levels and underemployment continue to hound the Philippine economy.

“The Philippine government should maximize the amount of foreign investment generated as a means to drive down unemployment and underemployment levels. We believe that achieving our goal of sustainable and inclusive growth requires the generation of a significant number of jobs.

Attracting massive amounts of foreign investments, meanwhile, is among the best means by which to create these employment opportunities,” the business community said.

The business groups said easing the country’s foreign investment restrictions also plays a critical role in the country’s aspiration to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and forge an advanced free trade agreement with the European Union.

With the TPP providing for minimum barriers to cross-border investment flows among members, the Philippines is unlikely to join the 12-member group unless some restrictions would be reduced.

“The Philippines has enjoyed enhanced economic prospects and is on the radar screen of the international investment community – and these will be further improved by higher foreign investments.

It will be unfortunate if the Philippines fails to take advantage of this golden opportunity and realize the potentials that a liberalized trade and investment regime will bring,” the business groups said.

The local and foreign business groups that manifested support for RBH 1 are the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc., American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.

ACIRC AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES AUSTRALIAN-NEW ZEALAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES BUSINESS BUSINESS PROCESS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES CANADIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES COMMERCE FOREIGN GROUPS INVESTMENT PHILIPPINES
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