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Law experts caution on lifting economic safeguards
“China is already recovering and will largely monopolize foreign direct investments (FDI). Is this what we want? The next targets of China are largely land, natural resources and public utilities,” Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Constitution, told the committee.
Geremy Pintolo

Law experts caution on lifting economic safeguards

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — At the start of Charter change hearings at the Senate, constitutional law experts yesterday warned that lifting foreign ownership restrictions in the Constitution might give China the chance to grab the country’s land, natural resources and strategic industries.

“China is already recovering and will largely monopolize foreign direct investments (FDI). Is this what we want? The next targets of China are largely land, natural resources and public utilities,” Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Constitution, told the committee.

Monsod also hit efforts to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the economic provisions, saying this would likely prompt conspiracies between corrupt lawmakers and big business.

Former Supreme Court associate justice Adolf Azcuna, who first proposed to Congress the simple amendment several years ago, said the phrase should only be inserted to “flexible” provisions and not compromise the mandate of the Constitution to protect Filipinos and the country’s resources.

Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda University Graduate School of Law, questioned the timing of Cha-cha deliberations. “So, why now? If, as has been loudly professed, the purpose is to liberalize the economic provisions of the Constitution, was this supposed need not already felt long before 2021?” Aquino said.

The Senate committee on constitutional amendments, led by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, tackled proposals to ease the restrictive economic provisions. Proponents insist that doing so would lead to large inflows of FDI. The Constitution limits foreign ownership of economic sectors and industries to 40 percent.

In separate manifestations, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Pia Cayetano and Grace Poe stressed economic bills pending or just approved by the Senate like the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) already ease some of the restrictions.

DILG wants separate voting

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) yesterday said that Senate and House of Representatives should vote separately on proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“The bicameral nature of Congress makes separate voting logical, prudent, and reasonable,” DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said in a statement, noting that separate voting would be ideal and doable because of the legislative branch’s bicameral nature.

The DILG-IATF is batting for the convening of a constituent assembly of both houses to expedite the amendments of the Constitution instead of a constitutional convention.

“The lifting of the restrictive economic provisions would allow us to have an adaptable economic policy regime at this crucial period in our nation’s history rather than being tied down to a fixed set of policies,” Malaya added. – Romina Cabrera

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