Relaxing rules on foreign investments must be Cha-cha focus: House panel head


Posted at Jan 28 2023 12:08 PM

House of Representatives, Quezon City on Oct. 13, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
House of Representatives, Quezon City on Oct. 13, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, is not in favor of "discussing political amendments" as lawmakers revive efforts to revise the 1987 Constitution, saying Saturday that the focus should be on provisions related to the economy.

"Ang akin kasi ngayon is how do we open our country for more foreign investments. Kasi nga ngayon, labanan ito ng mga bansa na maka-invite ng mga foreign investors so that maglagay ng mga manufacturing companies, production companies, and then employ ng Filipinos, especially galing lang tayo sa pandemya," Rodriguez said on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments recently convened resource persons to discuss measures proposing to call for a constitutional convention to amend or revise the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Rodriguez, who was a dean of San Sebastian College of Law and has a master's degree in Economics, acknowledged that touching on the political aspect of Cha-cha stirs controversy.

"I think, now, ang time natin ngayon is to help the president," he said, noting President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s foreign trips that include meetings with business groups to seek investments.

"Paano naman pupunta dito yung mga foreign ivnestors kung hanggang 40 percent lang sila, wala slang control?... We are going to look at that. Not so much on the political amendment. Yun ang aming focus ngayon," he added.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte last year approved amendments to the 85-year old Public Service Act, which liberalized some sectors to a 40 percent foreign equity cap. 

Some of these sectors include electricity distribution and transmission, telecommunication firms, and public utility vehicles. 

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"Times have changed. Globalization na ngayon. All investors from the United States, Europe, Japan, China, they go to many countries already to invest," said Rodriguez.

"Kung sabihin natin na itong mga probisyon (sa 1987 Constitution) are to protect our Filipino business and businessmen, ang Makati Business Club, our PCCI, they are in favor of this (proposed economic amendments) because they know na kung may maraming investors, maraming ma-employ, maraming income ang ating mga mamamayan, they can also buy their products," he added.

"So at this time, wala na yung protectionism. Hindi na, at this particular time of globalization where investors go... all over the world. Ang atin talaga ngayon, mabukasan natin ang ating bansa kasi kailangan natin ng foreign investors."

"Let us have a Constitution na hindi nagpo-prohibit up to 40 percent lamang. Sino namang businessmen na ibibigay ang pera sa mga partners na wala silang control sa pera nila kasi minority sila? Kaya mahina ang pagpasok ng mga investors dito," said the lawmaker.

Rodriguez shrugged off fears that pursuing amendments in the economic provisions of the Constitution will also lead to revisions in the political provisions.

He cited the experience of the previous Congress in passing a bill tackling economic amendments only. The measure, however, did not progress in the Senate.

"Pwede yun, na hanggang diyan (sa economic provisions) lang tayo," said Rodriguez.

Overhauling the Constitution without limiting this to economic provisions will be possible through a constitutional convention. 

"The other option is a Constitutional Convention. Diyan posible... na ang mga delegado na... ihahalal ng kanilang mga distrito ay hindi lang economic ang kanilang i-discuss kundi political."

Proposals to change the country's Charter have been a staple in every administration.

Duterte had created a consultative committee, led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, which drafted a federal Constitution that failed to materialize beyond Congressional debates.