SEOUL—For the nth time, President Aquino thumbed down proposals to amend the Constitution, particularly economic provisions that restrict foreign ownership of businesses and land.
Asked during a forum with the Korean business community of the possibility of amending the Constitution during his term, Aquino said he is currently not entertaining it, citing the example of China where economic progress can be achieved even with foreigners barred from owning land.
“Currently we’re not looking at revising the Constitution. But perhaps the direct answer to the question, China is considered one of the most consistent in terms of growth in the past decade and I understand in China you are not allowed to own the land, so that doesn’t seem to be a hindrance towards profitability and growth for any corporation,” Aquino said.
Aquino made a pitch for the Philippines as an investment destination, citing the country’s economic gains, including the recent credit ratings upgrade and growth numbers.
“Since my administration took office in July of 2010, my country has seen a large-scale turnaround in its fortunes—from being called the Sick Man of Asia, to being referred to as the New Asian Tiger, or as Asia’s Bright Spot. This drastic transformation is anchored on a simple idea—the same idea that our people voted for in the 2010 election: If we eliminate corruption, we can end poverty,” he said.
He pointed out reforms that his administration has undertaken such as cutting red tape in business registration, budgetary reforms, and delivery of social services without raising taxes.
“The whole spectrum of our governance efforts—be it investing in human capital, reforming the system, or going after crooks—seeks to empower our citizens so that growth is not limited to a privileged few, but is instead as inclusive as possible, where everybody will be given the opportunity to improve their lot in life,” he said.
In the process, Aquino took a swipe at the Arroyo administration to demonstrate how things have changed since he assumed office.
He again mentioned the over-importation of overpriced rice by the NFA leaving it ridden with debt.
“By the time she handed government over to me nine and a half years later, this debt has grown to 177 billion pesos—today, a staggering 4.12 billion dollars. How did this happen? My predecessor had us believe that the country needed to import 1.3 million metric tons of rice every year. In 2010 alone, to address this, they allowed the importation of 2.5 million metric tons of rice, and actually imported 2 million metric tons of rice—grossly in excess of what was needed, overpriced, and with many sacks of rice ending up rotting unconsumed in warehouses,” Aquino said.
The chairman of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), Dr. Han Duck-Soo, invited his fellow Korean businessmen to consider investing in the Philippines, citing other investors who have done so.
He said Korean businesses in the Philippines have diversified and also cited investments in infrastructure.
He said the Korea Airports Corporation is also providing consulting services for the construction of a new terminal at the Manila international airport.
Participating in the welcome luncheon were at least 200 Korean top-level executives of companies from the Federation of Korean Industries, Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business, and Korea International Trading Association.
Member companies include Samsung, Hyundai, Hanjin, Hanwha, LG, Doosan, GF, Daewoo, Lotte, among others.
The audience comprises the target sectors of the Philippines for investments: energy, food and agriculture, SMEs, electronics, shipbuilding, telecommunications, IT, construction, mining, tourism, automobile, and auto parts manufacturing.
CONDOLENCES FOR BOHOL
Meantime, Dr. Han also extended the business community’s condolences to the victims of the earthquake that hit parts of the Philippines.
“I also wish to offer my deepest condolences to the victims of the earthquake that hit the central Philippines three days ago. We pray for speedy recovery of the people and the areas affected by this disaster,” he said.