MANILA - The country’s largest business group on Monday said the government should focus on enacting bills that promote economic recovery and limit possible amendments to the Constitution to its economic provisions.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said that while it supports moves to change the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Consitution, the amendments should be limited to these provisions.
PCCI President Benedicto Yujuico said liberalizing the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution will make the country more competitive, boost foreign investments, “and address monopolistic, uncompetitive behaviors and under-investments in some sectors critical to public interest.”
But Yujuico said the amendments “should be done in a deliberate and careful manner that will continue to make the Constitution withstand various economic interests but especially the test of time.”
The PCCI also cautioned on the “timing and manner by which the Constitution is being proposed to be amended.”
“While it may be the fastest option, inserting the provision ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in sections of the Constitution that limit foreign equity to 40 percent in business ventures that are considered of critical interest to the Filipino people, could potentially weaken the country’s highest law by making it easier for ordinary legislation to amend the Constitution,” Yujuico said.
The PCCI’s position contrasts with that of another group, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), which said last week that the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in those restrictive provisions will give Congress the flexibility and leeway to amend those provisions to conform with present economic and technological conditions.
The FEF also said Charter change should be limited to economic provisions.
“We caution that amendments to the Constitution be confined to the economic provisions only. This will lessen the risk of political controversy and division that could derail the speedy passage of these much-needed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution,” it said.
The PCCI, meanwhile, said there are other bills pending in Congress that will attract foreign investors.
The group cited the Public Service Act Amendment, which lifts limitations on foreign equity ownership on some sectors currently classified as public utility such as telecommunications and transport.
It said the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act should also be prioritized as these will support the country’s strong recovery.
Various business groups have been pushing for years to lift the restrictions on business ownership in sectors like public utilities and retail.
One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution warned that fresh moves to amend economic provisions of the charter were “very dangerous and insidious.”
Lawyer Christian Monsod said they amounted to “a wholesale transfer of power from the Constitution to the Congress on determining your limitations on foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, media advertising, and educational institutions.”