‘House to prioritize economic Cha-cha’

‘House to prioritize economic Cha-cha’

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) – August 14, 2019 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will most likely prioritize changes in the economic provisions of the Constitution over proposed amendments that affect the nation’s political system.

“My suggestion is for us to focus on economic Cha-cha, because that is less controversial than political modifications,” said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, constitutional amendments committee chairman.

 He believes that a minor tweaking of the language in the Charter — parts that deal with the economy and national patrimony — would be acceptable to his colleagues in the House and the senators.

“Any Cha-cha proposal has to be accepted by senators. We need their participation and cooperation, otherwise, this effort will not move forward,” he said.

Deputy speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Rodriguez have filed resolutions asking the House and the Senate to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to consider Cha-cha proposals.

They are proposing the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the economic provisions of the Constitution. This means that the present restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses would remain but Congress would be authorized to pass laws that will relax or scrap them.

Gonzales agreed with Rodriguez that tweaking the economic provisions is less controversial than revising the Constitution’s political provisions and has greater chances of succeeding.

“I think most sectors of the nation agree that there is a need for economic Cha-cha. I believe that the Senate and the business community will support it. So it will most likely succeed,” he said as he expressed confidence that the House would be able to convince senators to go for economic Cha-cha.

Another House leader, Rep. Mikee Romero of party-list 1-Pacman, said he has no doubt that the business community would support the effort to install a mechanism to relax the Constitution’s economic provisions if the situation requires it.

Romero, a billionaire-businessman who heads the 54-member Party-list Coalition, said Filipino and foreign businessmen have been suggesting that foreign ownership restrictions of land and businesses be eased to allow the entry of more foreign investments.

“I am sure that this proposal, if it materializes, will enable our country to attract more foreign investments, which will translate into more jobs and income for our people and sustained economic development for the nation,” he said.

In Joint Resolution No. 4, Gonzales limited his surgical Cha-cha to changing the language of two economic provisions on the national economy and patrimony, and one political proviso on the term of office of House members.

He suggested that private corporations or associations, “whose shares of stocks are owned or controlled at least 60 percent by Filipino citizens,” be allowed to lease “alienable lands of the public domain” for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

Gonzales’ second proposed economic amendment puts a qualification on the 60-percent Filipino ownership of a public utility enjoying a franchise grant from Congress.

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