Charter change effort in House allows solons to ease foreign ownership cap: Bayan Muna

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 13 2019 08:56 AM | Updated as of Dec 13 2019 09:45 AM

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MANILA — A resolution approved by the House committee on constitutional amendments in a closed-door meeting could allow foreigners to own more than 40 percent of certain Filipino businesses, a lawmaker said Friday.

The resolution passed by the committee on Wednesday added the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to the constitutional restriction that capped foreign ownership in certain businesses at 40 percent, said Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Isagani Zarate.

This phrase means that lawmakers will have the power to pass a law easing the restriction on foreign investments, he said.

"There may come a time na maglabas ang Congress ng isang batas na sasabihin niya, hindi na 60-40 iyan (foreign equity ratio), 80-20 or in fact, puwede nang 100 percent na dayuhan," he told radio DZMM.

(There may come a time that Congress will pass a law saying that the foreign equity ratio should no longer be 60-40, but instead can be 80-20 or it fact, 100 percent foreign.)

"Iyong gusto nilang amendment, hindi natin malalaman kung hanggang saan iyong kontrol ng mga dayuhang namumuhunan," he said.

(With their proposed amendment, we cannot know the extent of the control of foreign investors.)

The proposed constitutional amendment "will not provide any stability at all", he said.

"Bawat Kongreso, kung gusto niyang bagu-baguhin ang economic framework ng ating bansa ay puwede niyang gawin, depende kung sino iyong magaling mag-lobby d'yan sa Kongreso na mailabas ang isang batas," said the lawmaker.

(Every Congress can change our country's economic framework, depending on who's good at lobbying for a certain law.)
 
'MORE INVESTMENT, MORE JOBS'

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The Philippines lagged behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of investments due to the 60-40 foreign equity ratio, which is "an outdated protectionist policy," said House constitutional amendments committee chairman Rufus Rodriguez.

"Iba na ngayon (it's different now), all countries in the world are trying to get the much needed [foreign] investment," he said in a separate DZMM interview.

The Makati Business Club, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other local business groups are in favor of removing the equity ratio because more foreign investments will generate more jobs that can raise the purchasing power of Filipinos, he said.

POLITICAL PROVISIONS

The resolution proposed 3 other major constitutional amendments, including the following, according to Rodriguez:

- The president and the vice president will be voted as a team, which means they will push for the same policies and can "hit the ground running" instead of bickering;

- The term of local officials and House representatives will be extended to 5 years from the current 3 years;

- The term of senators will be cut to 5 years instead of the current 6, and the Senate will have 27 members instead of 24, with 9 regions getting 3 representatives each.

The proposed amendments, if passed, will take effect only after the 2022 elections because any sooner would be "self-serving" to lawmakers, Rodriguez said.

Zarate said the political provisions were included in the resolution only to make the proposed removal of the foreign equity ratio "palatable" to politicians.