The proposed constitutional amendment to remove restrictions on foreign ownership of public utilities and agricultural lands will result in unabated landgrabbing and poor working conditions, a militant lawmaker warned on Thursday.
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap made the warning a day after approval of Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and which allows Congress to pass a law that would revise the current 40-percent limit to foreign ownership of public utilities, media entities and lands and exploration of natural resources, as well as the 30-percent foreign ownership threshold for advertising firms and other business ventures.
Hicap noted that entry of foreign investors in the countryside was always preceded by landgrabbing and dislocation of poor farmers, as seen in the case of the 8,650-hectare Hacienda Looc in Batangas, the 7,100-hectare Hacienda Yulo in Laguna, the 2,000-hectare Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga, as well as the 36,000-hectare Clark Green City project in Tarlac.
“Landgrabbing and dislocation of farmers are widespread, as land has been commodified, speculated [on]and targeted by foreign investors,” the lawmaker said.
The entry of foreign investors would not be good for workers either, Hicap added.
He cited the case of workers in special economic zones where a number of foreign investors impose contractualization, limit the workers’ restroom breaks, force overtime, combine morning and afternoon breaks as lunch break and operate 24 hours, among others.
“The foreign investors’ primary interest in the Philippine economy is profit, hence, [the implementation of]anti-worker programs and policies. There are many workers as young as 40 years old who are already suffering from different illnesses, as their decades-old work is all exploitation to the fullest of their labor power and health,” Hicap said.
According to him, the middle class, who are into small and medium enterprises (SMEs), would also take a hit with the entry of the foreign investors.
“We are witnessing the flooding of retail stores that are foreign-owned. Under Charter change, even the mini-groceries, sari-sari [variety]store, small shops, would end up bankrupt as they would compete with foreign businesses that we know have huge capital and are capable of overwhelming local businesses,” Hicap said.