Joint resolution allowing 100% foreign ownership of land, businesses breezes through with no objections
They were expected to open the floor for debates on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law but congressmen present in Wednesday’s session ended up voting on a resolution calling for amendments to the Constitution’s economic provisions.
The so-called economic Cha-cha (Charter change) or Resolution of Both Houses 1, authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Sen. Ralph Recto, was passed on second reading without a single objection, not even from the so-called militant congressmen via viva voce voting.
“This is the first time it ever reached this point and I’m very happy. The biggest hurdle is still to come, three-fourths vote of everybody including those who are absent,” Belmonte told reporters.
Deputy Speaker Georgidi Aggabao, who was presiding, dispensed with the roll call and proceeded with the session.
No one questioned the quorum, not even Buhay party-list Rep. Jose Lito Atienza, who has a penchant for questioning the number of congressmen present on the floor.
Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc who have consistently been opposing moves to amend the Constitution did not lift a finger during the quiet Wednesday session.
Gabriela women’s party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan later issued a statement saying the House of Representatives is courting economic disaster and is now one step closer to further allowing large-scale environmental plunder with the approval of the resolution.
“Congress is on the brink of committing a most unpatriotic act in seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land, resources and key industries in the Philippines. This will mean further economic exclusivity to the detriment of the growing number of poor Filipinos,” Ilagan said.
She added that the Makabayan bloc will exhaust various avenues to block attempts to remove protectionist provisions in the Constitution.
If both Houses approved the resolution this year, a plebiscite for the constitutional amendments could be piggybacked on the 2016 elections to save funds.
If the joint resolution was passed by both Houses and approved by voters in the plebiscite,
it would be the first amendment to the 1987 Constitution.
The 1987 Constitution was drafted in 1986 immediately after President Corazon Aquino took power and was approved in a plebiscite in February the following year.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd usually discourages proposals to amend the Constitution, which he regards as a legacy of his mother Corazon but he has not stopped his allies from pushing the economic Cha-cha.
Earlier this month, Belmonte said they will try to approve the economic Charter change resolution before Congress ends its second regular session on June 11.
“We will be able to approve it on second reading in June,” he also told reporters last May 13.
He, however, cautioned, that the third and final-reading approval would be a different matter altogether.
Belmonte then said he does not see any problem in the approval of the economic Cha-cha as a second reading only requires a viva voce or voice vote from those present.
He expects greater challenges on third reading though, as this requires about 200 votes.
“Third reading would require two-thirds of the chamber to approve it or around 200 members. Really, we’d have to make a big effort to see to it that people will attend the session,” Belmonte said.
The economic Cha-cha or RBH-1 is eyeing to amend economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, which set a 60-40 rule that limits foreign ownership of certain business activities in the Philippines.
The resolution pushes the inclusion of the phrase “unless provided by law” in the foreign-ownership provision of the Constitution, particularly on land ownership, public utilities, natural resources, media and advertising industries.
Under Article XII of the Constitution, foreign investors are prohibited to own more than 40 percent of real property and businesses, while they are totally restricted from exploiting natural resources and owning any company in the media industry.
Belmonte is convinced that amending the 28-year-old Constitution would attract more foreign investments into the country and would create more jobs.
“We need more investments and business activities to absorb our growing labor force. We believe that competition is good for our economy and our people, and that a competitive marketplace for the exchange of goods and services benefits the consumers through lower prices, quality service and better quality consumer information,” he said.
Explaining the rush in approving the bill, Belmonte pointed to time as no longer in their favor but they are doing their best to convince more colleagues to support the measure.
“Remember, this is a joint resolution of the House and the Senate, it doesn’t require the approval of the President,” he said.
According to the House leadership, if the Senate succeeds in doing the same thing, “then it will be a historical thing, the first time that it has ever been done. Then, it goes straight to the Comelec [Commission on Elections], it doesn’t need to pass through the President. The problem here is there is no money for a plebiscite.”
Belmonte said the government might hold the plebiscite for Cha-cha alongside the 2016 national elections instead of spending for separate polls, which need at least P7 billion to P8 billion.