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Solon: It’s about time for economic Cha-cha

CAVITE Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr. on Monday made a case for the administration’s renewed push to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, saying it is about time that the provisions are changed because some foreign corporations easily get around the prohibition on foreign ownership anyway by resorting to dummying.

Barzaga, a veteran CPA-lawyer who is the president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said it only makes sense that the questionable provisions are amended since foreign corporations have long been skirting the constitutional prohibition on ownership of lands and businesses.

He said some mass media companies are able to operate in the country “and they are just using dummies, in direct violation of our laws.”

“Kaya ako since 2007, I was already in favor of Charter change,” he told an interview with Politiko TV which was posted live on Youtube.

The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership of land and businesses to only 40 percent and sets aside the other 60 percent exclusively to Filipino citizens or corporations, a provision which Barzaga pointed out is almost a 100 years old since it was lifted from the 1935 Constitution.

The House committee on constitutional amendments last week started hearing Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s proposed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which seeks to liberalize these constitutional

provisions which the Speaker said “prevent us from becoming fully competitive with our Asian neighbors.”

The measure seeks to amend Sections 2, 3, 7, 10 and 11 of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Section 4 of Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and Section 11 of Article XVI (General Provisions) to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

Barzaga said many foreign investors are being turned away by the prohibitive economic provisions of the Charter, depriving the country of the much-needed foreign direct investments (FDI).

In his province, he shared that some foreign corporations that are locators of the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) are complaining to him that they cannot even own lands where they are running their businesses.

The FCIE is a 159.5 hectare industrial subdivision built to service all basic needs of any manufacturing concern of the light-to-medium scale industry.

“Nandito ang mga korporasyon na pag-aari ng Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and even some German companies at ang palagi nilang sinasabi, ‘Mayor, we cannot acquire (properties) where we are operating our business. Sa Japan ayaw nila pumayag na mga dummy ang aming gagawin (at sabi nila) ang problema masyado restrictive ang inyong land ownership kaya nahihirapan kami mag invest ng continuously dito sa Pilipinas,” Barzaga said.

The senior lawmaker said Japanese locators even told him that even if they will be allowed to own lands in the country, they won’t be able to bring it home since it is in the Philippines.

“The land, although it’s in our name, will still be in the Philippines,” Barzaga said, quoting Japanese investors. “And that (constitutional prohibition) deters the growth of your economy in the Philippines.”

Barzaga said that while the new Cha-cha drive is solely being pushed to change the Constitution’s economic provisions, he remains in favor of a shift to a parliamentary form of government so that “there will continuity as far as the Head of State is concerned as long as he’s doing good for the country.”

“Eh sa presidential system, you have to stop after six years. If you have a bad President, no matter how bad, no matter how he is being rejected by the people, he has to serve office for six years. Maghihintay tayo ng another six years unlike sa parliament, pwede natin ma-dissolve at anytime,” he said.