More jobs to keep Pinoys home, lawmakers told

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
More jobs to keep Pinoys home, lawmakers told
Workers are seen performing their duties at a constructi site in Taguig on February 7, 2024.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — An economy stimulated by foreign investments could lead to the generation of more local jobs so that Filipinos will no longer seek work abroad, a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) said during deliberations of Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 by the House of Representatives’ committee of the whole on Wednesday.

“Economic liberalization will mean more foreign investments, and OFWs will come home. Foreign investors are welcome in other countries. In the Philippines, they are not welcome,” former OFW Orion Dumdum told lawmakers.

“The lack of foreign direct investments creates joblessness and other pressing social issues. The lifting of these restrictions will bring the jobs to the Philippines,” he said, calling on congressmen to remove the protectionist policies in the 1987 Constitution.

“The effect of reducing foreign equity restrictions is the strongest, denoting its relatively greater importance as a statutory barrier for investors,” Dumdum said, quoting the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has ranked the Philippines as among the most restrictive economies.

“That’s the reality, even the Joint Foreign Chambers have repeatedly said they want these restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution out. These restrictions are very discouraging for their countries. These restrictions have to go,” he added.

“Electricity, transmission side. We should have more advanced technology, more efficient distribution. These are the root cause why electricity is expensive. Delete all anti-foreign restriction caused by these,” Dumdum stressed.

Dumdum, one of the resource persons invited by the House committee of the whole, represented the Constitutional Reform and Rectification for Economic Competitiveness and Transformation Movement.

RBH7 that the House is deliberating on for economic Charter change may spur the infusion of massive foreign capital, generating jobs so that Filipinos will no longer leave for greener pastures abroad, according to Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo.

For his part, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda underscored the importance of updating several provisions in the 1987 Constitution that stalled economic growth.

“For the President to come out in support of Charter change despite his usual reservation on such matters (like the 1986 revolt), clearly shows that he sees this as urgent and of the highest national interest. This is the first time that he has deviated from that position,” he said.

Salceda also said that while Congress has amended certain laws, the changes were insufficient to attract foreign investors because of restrictions in the Constitution.

“I have repeatedly emphasized that if foreigners cannot own or have a more secure tenure over land, they will be less willing to invest heavily on capital-intensive sectors,” he added.

Voter disenfranchisement

The simultaneous holding of the plebiscite for Charter change and the midterm elections could lead to longer queues and the disenfranchisement of voters, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) warned yesterday.

“Should the plebiscite and the midterm elections be held simultaneously, we should be mindful to ensure that the voting process and experience is as facile and as streamlined as possible since any additions, changes to the system could result in longer voting time, longer lines and possible disenfranchisement,” PPCRV national media and voters education director Ana de Villa-Singson said.

She also suggested that a study be conducted to determine the length of time required by a voter in casting a ballot, especially since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would be introducing new vote counting machines in the coming May 2025 polls.

Last week, the Comelec announced it awarded the P17.8-billion contract to procure 110,000 vote counting machines to the joint venture of Korean firm Miru Systems Co. Ltd. Its partners for the poll automation project are the Integrated Computer Systems, St. Timothy Construction Corp. and Centerpoint Solutions Technologies Inc.

To have a plebiscite separate from the elections would also only entail additional cost to the government. It was earlier reported that holding the referendum before the May 2025 elections would require the government to spend between P12 billion to P14 billion.

“The plebiscite is akin to an election. And while it is the best way to determine the voter’s will, separate activities could be costly and difficult to operationalize,” she added.

As to the proposal to include a “rider question” in the 2025 election ballots asking the public if they are in favor of easing foreign investment limits on public utilities, higher education and advertising, Singson said that there should be an information dissemination campaign to help voters understand the effects of changing the Constitution. –  Evelyn Macairan, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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