MANILA — Unrestricted foreign direct investment is key to the Philippines' economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a former interior official said Monday.
At a forum on constitutional reforms in Manila, former interior undersecretary Jonathan Malaya made a fresh push for charter change.
“Foreign direct investment is critical to our country’s economic recovery in the post-pandemic era and the only way that we will fully recover from the pandemic is if we can bring in capital from foreign investment, so it is critical that we get the best deal from foreign investment,” said Malaya.
He also emphasized that the Philippines is the only country with
constitutional restrictions on foreign direct investments.
But he admitted that charter change may not be possible under the current administration as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been silent on the issue.
For his part, University of the Philippines (UP) political science professor Temy Rivera pointed out one of the counter-arguments to charter change: economic reforms can be achieved by passing new or amending old laws.
“We talk about the limitations on foreign direct investment in the consitution, true, yung 60-40 but what has happened in reality, in reality congress can always pass a law that will expand the areas for greater investment,” Rivera said.
Rivera also noted the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court which gave local governments a higher share of the country’s resources, without requiring changes in the Constitution.
He also mentioned, among others, the dangers of granting more local autonomy to local governments by amending the Constitution as it can also strengthen political dynasties.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman agreed that proper legislation is needed, more than charter change.
He added that there is no clamor for the removal of foreign investment restrictions from foreign investors, even from international organizations such as the World Bank.
“The Constitutional protection requiring 60 percent Filipino corporate ownership and 100 percent Filipino individual ownership of basic and strategic industries has been and enduring safeguard for Filipino entrepreneurs and the nation’s posterity for about a century,” Lagman said.
Asked why charter change proposals never prospered under the Duterte administration, Lagman and Malaya cited various reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic causing proponents to lose momentum.
“Even Duterte did not fully understand his proposal, but jesting aside, no less than his major economic advisers were not in favor of federalism, they were afraid of the economic impact,” Lagman said.
Former senator Joey Lina noted that various attempts to effect charter change have all failed so far.
Lina emphasized the need to engage the public to be a part of the government.
“I’m not very much taken by these proposed changes to the Constitution, I am more interested in how we can mobilize our people, enlighten them so that they do not just depend on ayudas,” Lina said.
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