charter change

Businesses caution against using charter change vs pandemic

Ralf Rivas

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Businesses caution against using charter change vs pandemic

LOWER CHAMBER. Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and other members of the House pose for a 'unity photo' on October 13, 2020.

File photo from House of Representatives

'PCCI is cautious [of] the timing and manner by which the Constitution is being proposed to be amended,' says the Philippines' largest business group

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) on Monday, January 11, cautioned lawmakers against using charter change to relax economic restrictions amid the pandemic-induced recession.

PCCI, which is the country’s largest business group, said that while it welcomes moves to liberalize economic provisions of the Constitution, it is questioning some of the proposed amendments, as well as the timing and manner of the proposal.

Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2, authored by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, proposes to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” on the constitutional restrictions that limit the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of entities based on their proportionate share in the capital. 

The same phrase would be added to provisions requiring that only Filipino citizens can control and own educational institutions and mass media companies.

RBH No. 2 would also add the same phrase to the current restrictions on private corporations holding lands of public domain.

The business group said the amendment may “weaken the country’s highest law.”

“While it may be the fastest option, inserting the provision ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in sections of the Constitution that limit foreign equity to 40% in business ventures that are considered of critical interest to the Filipino people, could potentially weaken the country’s highest law by making it easier for ordinary legislation to amend the Constitution,” said PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico.

“PCCI is cautious [of] the timing and manner by which the Constitution is being proposed to be amended.”

The business group said the government should prioritize the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises and Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery instead.

PCCI also pushed for amending the Public Service Act, which lifts restrictions on foreign equity ownership on some sectors classified as public utility, including telecommunications and transportation.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom earlier released a similar statement supporting the amendment, but likewise cautioned that the talks should only be “confined” to the economic provisions.

“This will lessen the risk of political controversy and division that could derail the speedy passage of these much-needed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution.”

Critics, even lawmakers themselves, warned against the abuse of power once charter change is pushed, as it may be used to extend the terms of Congress members and other elected officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Senators question timing of Cha-Cha talks: ‘One big step into quicksand’)

Duterte previously called for constitutional amendments to shift to federalism, a move which his economic managers warned would be detrimental to the economy. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.