• Not enough votes to roll out Charter Change yet

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    There are not enough votes to pass the measure, which can amend the Constitution by relaxing limits on foreign ownership of public utilities, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said.

    Belmonte authored House Resolution 1 which removes restrictions on participation of foreigners in the country’s economy such as: a 40 percent limit on foreign ownership of public utilities, media entities, land and exploration of natural resources and 30 percent limit for advertising firms, and other
    business ventures by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided for by law.” It secured the approval of the House Committee on Constitutional amendments led by Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano of Davao City.

    “Of course, I am happy about it [House Resolution 1’s approval in the Committee level], but that is just the first step. On whether we can get a three-fourths vote in favor of it, I don’t want to venture on that yet. What I can say is that I am of the belief that this House Resolution is a good measure,” Belmonte told reporters.

    The Speaker was referring to the Constitutional requirement in which at least three-fourths of the members of the House should support Constitutional amendments for such changes to be approved.

    “The three-fourths vote is not a sure thing. It’s something we have to work on,” Belmonte conceded.

    One of the obstacles to push through the Belmonte proposal is President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s staunch opposition against Charter Change (Cha-cha) as the Chief Executive remains unconvinced that the amendments will be of greater benefit for the country.

    “The President is not supportive of it at the moment and I suspect this is because he thinks there are people harboring bigger changes, more particularly on term limits and the political structure. Getting the three-fourths vote would show everyone that much-feared revision extending term limits is something that the lawmakers are willing to forget in the interest of the public,” Belmonte, a lawyer, argued.

    “As I’ve said, this [House Resolution] does not immediately change anything. It just makes it possible to do the changes if it’s necessary in the public interest,” Belmonte said.

    But for Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, Charter Change will only bring poverty and should take a backseat behind the amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which allows pass on charges of generation charges of power distribution utilities to consumers and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

    “Government should provide capital to local industries, agriculture and businesses because we cannot compete with transnational companies who have large capital and subsidies from their governments. Lifting the existing Constitutional restrictions on the foreign ownership of land, natural resources and strategic industries such as utilities and media is practically giving up the country’s future to foreign investors,” Colmenares said.

    “We are now calling on different sectors of society to show their collective anger against Cha-Cha by organizing anti-Cha-Cha coalitions and prepare for the debates in Congress this May as promised by Speaker Belmonte for this planned sell out of our national patrimony,” Colmenares added.

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