'PNoy has open mind on economic Cha-cha'

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 03 2014 09:04 AM | Updated as of Feb 03 2014 05:04 PM

MANILA - President Aquino is keeping an open mind on “economic” Charter change (Cha-cha), contrary to what Malacañang officials are telling the public, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said yesterday.

Rodriguez said he recently discussed with the President a House proposal seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow Congress to lift restrictions on foreign ownership of land and certain businesses.

“I told him that his administration achieved 7.7 percent economic growth. If we have more foreign investments by opening up certain businesses to full foreign ownership, we can attain at least 10 percent. He was intently listening,” he said.

The lawmaker said the President asked him, the House leaders and business groups endorsing economic Cha-cha to submit their position papers to him.

“I am now collating all those documents and I will submit them to him next week,” he said.

Rodriguez said he informed the President that under the Cha-cha proposal of the House, he would have veto power over any Congress-approved bill that seeks foreign ownership of land or a certain sector of the economy.

“The bill would be sent to him for his signature. If he does not like it, if he does not want foreigners to own land or to open up a certain business, all he has to do is to veto the bill. And with his political following in Congress, the legislature will surely not overturn his veto,” he stressed.

Under Resolution No. 1, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and his colleagues are seeking the amendment of the economic provisions of the Constitution by inserting the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law.”

This means the present restrictions would remain unless Congress lifts them. A bill would have to be approved for every restriction that would be scrapped.

Rodriguez, who is president of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP), said he assured Aquino that Cha-cha would be confined to the Charter’s economic provisions.

“As a matter of fact, I told him that I have withdrawn my bill calling for the convening of a constitutional convention that would propose sweeping amendments, including a change in the form of government. We in CDP are now supporting economic Cha-cha,” he said.

The lawmaker said he told Aquino that the envisioned ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration next year might require lifting certain constitutional restrictions relating to the economy.

He said the entire ASEAN region would just be one big market and community in 2015, where reciprocal policies would have to be followed.