Business groups back cha-cha

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As the unemployment rate in the country continues to rise, the Makati Business Club (MBC) pushed for amending economic provisions of the Constitution to “improve the inflow” of investments in the country.

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In an interview, MBC Chair Ramon Del Rosario Jr. said the government should consider looking into the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that restrict complete foreign ownership of estates and corporations to “open up” certain areas of the economy.

Del Rosario attended the House of Representatives meeting with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Philippine business groups on Wednesday.

He said the steady increase of unemployment rate in the country amid the economic growth is “a very serious issue” and a “more serious crisis than [Super Typhoon] Yolanda” as it affects a larger number of people.

“The message we would like to convey here is that we really need to put everything we’ve got together to try and address this issue, including things like looking at our Constitution and what are the restrictions there that impede the inflow of our investments into our economy,” Del Rosario told reporters.

“Because to create jobs, you really need investments. Let us open up those areas of our economy, such as mining, which is still at a standstill, where more employment can be created,” he added.

Del Rosario said the MBC had already appealed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd directly on the proposal but was turned down.

This should be addressed immediately as the Philippines becomes a new investment hub in Asia, second only to China, he said.

Aquino already turned down proposals for charter change since he assumed the presidency in 2010. Critics, on the other hand, believed that once the Constitution is opened for amendments it would also open the floodgates for amendments of several political provisions, including extending term limits.

However, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the main sponsor of the move to amend the Constitution, assured the public that it would only be limited to the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the 60-40 ownership provision.

Belmonte believes that charter change is a larger contributor to economic growth as foreign direct investments (FDIs) are seen to increase once ownership on estates and corporations, one of the issues raised by investors for not investing in the country, is relaxed.

“When we talk about FDI, we want investments in factories, we want investments in industries. And when you do that, you cannot just come and go. You have to stick around and see you’re able to do to make money,” Belmonte said after the conference.

The speaker said that the measure, Joint Resolution 1, is expected to reach the plenary before end-March.

He also expressed confidence that constitutional amendments would be approved at the House with a three-fourths vote of the chamber.

European Chamber of Commerce Vice President Henry Schumacher also expressed support to the move as it is the key to increase FDIs to the country.

“I think the time is now to do it. I think we need more [FDI] and from that point of view, it makes sense to remove the obstacles,” he said.

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