Philippine economy

Dominguez backs charter change for economy, but distances from politics

Ralf Rivas

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BUSINESS AND POLITICS. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

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'If there are people who want to discuss...the other stuff to keep themselves in power, I think the public will react to that if they don't like,' says Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Tuesday, January 12, threw his support behind amending the strict economic provisions of the Constitution. 

He, however, tiptoed around the political aspects of charter change (Cha-Cha) being proposed just around 15 months before the national elections in 2022.

During the online inaugural meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines, Dominguez told business leaders that he is for the opening of the economy “in all areas possible,” with the exception of land ownership.

“The issue of land ownership is so emotional, any mention of that will scupper the whole program,” he said.

Dominguez added that the government must set “doable” measures like relaxing rules on retail trade and construction.

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Lawmakers earlier said Cha-Cha is only being pushed for opening up select industries for foreign investors amid the coronavirus crisis, but critics warned that talks of politicians’ term extension may be tackled during the deliberations. (READ: Senators question timing of Cha-Cha talks: ‘One big step into quicksand’)

Pressed on the matter, Dominguez simply said, “I don’t know.”

“Now if there are people who want to discuss other stuff, the political…and the other stuff to keep themselves in power, I think the public will react to that if they don’t like,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team has repeatedly called for the relaxation of equity restrictions, but at the same time, has been quite vocal against moves toward federalism through constitutional amendments.

In 2018, Dominguez said he would “absolutely” vote against federalism due to “confusing” fiscal provisions that were proposed at that time.

Business groups like the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) earlier cautioned lawmakers against using Cha-Cha 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. – Rappler.com

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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.