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House leaders back economic cha-cha

Lord Allan Velasco and Martin Romualdez
File photo of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco with House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez Photo by VER NOVENO

Romualdez leads political heads in signing manifesto of support

LEADERS of major political parties and blocs in the House of Representatives have signed a manifesto of support for Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s call to liberalize the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution to help the economy recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the manifesto, the political leaders led by House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez vowed that the House will “deliberate only on the economic provisions” as specified in Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 filed by Velasco and is now being taken up by the House committee on constitutional amendments.

They said the legislative chamber will remain consistent with its position that when Congress proposes amendments to the 34-year-old Charter, “the House of Representatives and the Senate shall vote separately.”

The proposed amendments will be submitted to the people for ratification simultaneously with the May 2022 national elections, they added.

“We believe that now is the most opportune time to resume the deliberation on the amendments to the economic provisions specified under RBH No. 2 for the primary purpose of mitigating and providing lasting solutions to the devastating economic effects brought about by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic,” the manifesto read.

“In doing so, we hope to fortify and safeguard the foundations of our nation from future crises and curtail the severity of other economic regressions going forward.”

The leaders assured that they “remain firm in our resolve to utilize all means possible within the period left for the 18th Congress to adopt measures and introduce reforms that will provide the maximum benefit to the Filipino people and lead the country towards a robust and sustainable recovery.”

The signatories of the manifesto were Romualdez for Lakas-CMD, Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon, Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit for the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers for the Nacionalista Party,

Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. for the National Unity Party, Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab for Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero for the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc., and Aurora Rep. Rommel Rico Angara for the independent bloc.

Earlier, the nation’s top economists, in a rare public display, threw their support behind efforts to amend the economic provisions in the Charter to make the Philippines “more foreign investment-friendly” and to accelerate the country’s economic recovery.

Even Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said he is supportive of the move to amend the restrictive economic provisions and for the opening of the economy “in all areas possible,” with the exception of land ownership. He said the government must also set “doable” measures like relaxing rules on retail trade and construction.

Velasco had earlier instructed the committee on constitutional amendments to open discussions on amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, as stated in RBH No. 2.

Velasco said these “restrictive” economic provisions, which hamper the flow of foreign capital investments, must be lifted to support the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

He added foreign investments play a crucial role in the economy by supporting domestic jobs and the creation of physical and knowledge capital across a range of industries.

RBH No. 2 specifically aims to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution, particularly Articles XII (National Patrimony and Economy), XIV (Education, Science, Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions).

The measure seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to several sections of the Constitution, which restrict foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, educational institutions, media and advertising.

It provides that by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, the Senate and the House voting separately could propose amendments to the economic provisions of the basic law of the land.