• Charter change debates kick off


    LAWMAKERS for and against Charter change (Cha-cha) are set to slug it out today when the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments begins  to tackle House Resolution (HR) 1, which seeks to amend the economic provisions  of the 1987 Constitution.

    The bill aims to remove limits to foreign ownership of public utilities, media entities, land and exploration of natural resources to 40 percent and of advertising firms, and other business ventures to 30 percent, with the majority owned by Filipinos.

    However, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Monday rejected proposals to amend the economic barriers in the 1987 Constitution, saying the economy will fare better under an improved business climate.

    Representatives Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, Romero Quimbo of Marikina and Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte see the Charter-change proposal of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as a necessity since it does not reduce or extend the term limits of elected officials.

    HR 1, which was authored by Belmonte, includes the phrase “as provided by law” as a safeguard that the amendments will not tinker with the term limits of elected officials.

    “I support Speaker Belmonte’s resolution and I am a co-author of it. The proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution would make us more competitive in the global economy and let the growth that we have been experiencing reach the masses,” Fariñas, the House deputy majority leader, said.

    “The country needs it if we are to fully benefit from our investment upgrade. We are getting left behind and will continue to do so with the ASEAN economic integration in 2015,” Quimbo, who heads the House committee on ways and means, said in a separate text message.

    Quimbo was referring to the Association of Southeast Asian National Economic Community in 2015, which will impose zero tariff on goods and services transported within the Southeast Asian countries for the benefit of at least 600 million consumers.

    “I will support the amendment of the Constitution as long as it will not tinker with the political provisions,” Romualdez said.

    Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list, on the other hand, vowed to oppose Belmonte’s measure. He said the bill would open the floodgates to amending the political provisions of the Constitution that could perpetuate the elected officials in power.

    For Hicap, amending the 1987 Charter would only benefit foreign investors and businesses and sell the Philippine economy and national patrimony to foreign interests.
    “We will defend the country’s national economy, patrimony and sovereignty at all cost. Charter change did not prosper during the terms of former Presidents [Fidel] Ramos, [Joseph] Estrada and [Gloria] Arroyo. We will make sure that it will suffer the same fate under the Aquino administration,” Hicap said.

    Balisacan also claimed that constitutional amendments are not needed for global competitiveness.

    “I don’t have to wait for Constitutional reforms to get this economy moving forward,” he told reporters in Malacañang.
    Although the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief maintained that he was “very much in favor of making the business climate very favorable to investment,” economic managers see that investments can be boosted by addressing the key problems besetting the system.

    Balisacan enumerated these as “the quality of infrastructure; quality of the bureaucracy, the institutions, the cost of doing business and the power supply.”

    The NEDA chief added that “every report that I have seen on the constraints to economic growth in this country point to the regulatory framework, peace and order, labor law.”

    Besides, Balisacan said he respects the position of President Benigno Aquino 3rd on the issue of charter change. Aquino is adamantly against any move to change the Constitution.

    Balisacan said he would not advise the President to tinker with the Charter.


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