Ratification of proposed charter change eyed alongside 2022 polls: Velasco

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2021 01:37 PM

Ratification of proposed charter change eyed alongside 2022 polls: Velasco 1
House Speaker Lord Alan Velasco presides over the special session of the House of Representatives in Quezon City on October 13, 2020, after 186 lawmakers voted to ratify his election as Speaker at the Celebrity Sports Plaza on October 12, 2020 in Quezon City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The House of Representatives aims to present constitutional amendments for the public's ratification alongside the 2022 national elections, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Sunday.

Velasco had filed in July 2019 Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which proposes amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. 

The chamber will resume its hearings on charter change on Wednesday, according to Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin.

"We hope to finish the debates before the end of 2021 and present it to the public for ratification alongside the election of new leaders in the 2022 national elections," Velasco said.

"Until then, we assure the public that the debates on RBH 2 will be transparent and fair," he said.

The bill aims to "free up the economy to foreign investors, or maintain the status quo," according to the House Speaker.

It seeks to amend provisions in the Constitution that prevent foreign ownership of land and businesses in the country.

The proposed easing of restrictions is also sought on the ownership and management of mass media, public utility, educational institutions, investments and capital to foreign investors.

"As global economies slowly start to reopen, we cannot allow the Philippines to lag behind in terms of investments and opportunities. We need to seize the momentum if we are to fully recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19," Velasco said.

"Foreign investment plays a crucial role in the Philippine economy by supporting domestic jobs and the creation of physical and knowledge capital across a range of industries. The need to attract foreign capital is critical to support our economy’s recovery from COVID-19."

At least 9 business groups invited as resource persons in the House hearings agree with amending the economic provisions.

The trade department said it "welcomes" the intention of the measure but "with reservations."

The agency proposed to use the phrase "unless qualified by law," instead of "unless stated otherwise by law" to amend provisions of the Constitution.

"(The DTI) believes that the Constitution should only reflect
the basic framework and values of the state and thus serves as the primary foundation which guides succeeding sources of law," it said.

Days after taking over the House leadership in October last year, Velasco said there was "no more time" to pursue charter change as government should focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco, however, said there was a need to revisit current term limits, particularly the "very short" 3 year-term of lawmakers.

Part of President Rodrigo Duterte's 2016 campaign promises was a shift of the Philippine government to a federal form through constitutional amendments.

Duterte's spokesman last week said the President does not want to stay in power beyond the end of his term in 2022.

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