MBC urges Congress to focus on priority bills, not Cha-cha

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2012 05:02 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2012 01:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Makati Business Club (MBC) on Thursday urged Congress to focus on passing urgent priority measures before the 2013 elections and not Charter change.

In a statement, MBC said amending the Constitution's economic provisions are critical to boost investments and employment in the country.

"However, we believe that the Senate and the House of Representatives have matters of greater urgency that they need to address with higher priority between now and the 2013 elections," it said.

These priority measures are as follows:

1.     the 2013 General Appropriations Act (pending in the House Committee)

2.     the bill restructuring the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products (sin taxes) (House Bill 5727 - approved on third reading) / (pending in the Senate Committee)

3.     the amendments to the Mining Act of 2005 to conform to the Executive Order on mining (pending in the respective House and Senate Committees)

4.     the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development Act (House Bill 4244 - pending second reading) / Reproductive Health Act (Senate Bill 2865 - pending second reading)

5.     the Freedom of Information bill (pending in the House Committee) / People's Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Act (Senate Bill 3208 - pending second reading)

6.     further strengthening the Anti-Money Laundering Law (House Bill 4275 - approved on third reading) / (Senate Bill 3123 - pending second reading)

7.     the Philippine Fair Competition Act (House Bill 4835 - pending second reading) / Competition Act (Senate Bill 3098 - pending second reading)

8.     the Investments and Incentives Code (House Bill 4935 - approved on third reading) / (pending in the Senate Committee)

9.     the bill Strenghtening the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program (House Bill 5714 - approved on third reading) / Whistleblower Protection Act (Senate Bill 2860 - pending second reading)

Earlier this week, President Aquino met with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to listen to the proposal to change the 60:40 restrictions on foreign capital in ordert to attract more foreign investments.

While it supported changes to the Constitution's economic provisions, MBC said the right time to change it is after the 2013 elections.

"We would welcome a constitutional amendment that would enable Congress to enact legislation that would eliminate or alter the nationality provisions in the Constitution," the group said.

"Ideas have been forwarded that this can be accomplished through a 'surgical amendment' through the insertion of a phrase like 'unless modified or removed by Congress' to the nationality provisions, through a method similar to the passage of ordinary legislation but requiring each house of Congress to pass these with a 3/4 vote of approval, followed by a plebiscite," it added.

The President has already asked his economic managers, including NEDA, the agency in charge with macro-economic planning, to study whether amending the Constitution would benefit the country.

Some economic analysts believe removing the 60:40 rule on foreign ownership will bring in  more investments and create more employment.

Others, however, say there's no correlation between the restriction and foreign investments.   They say foreign investors will come despite these restrictions as long as they can make money.