Bishops warn vs boosting foreign ownership of PH firms

Paterno Esmaquel II
Bishops warn vs boosting foreign ownership of PH firms
'We have steered away from the prospect of foreigners enriching themselves by the country's resources and our labor force...leaving us none the better'

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday, June 8, urged Filipinos to “be circumspect” about relaxing limits to foreign ownership of businesses, as the welfare of laborers is at stake.

In a pastoral statement, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the bishops’ organization is not yet taking a moral stand on the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution.

However, he issued guidelines for studying the issue. Emphasizing the precepts of social justice, he proposed that Filipinos ask 3 basic questions:

  1. What do we, as a nation, stand to gain from relaxing the provisions now deemed restrictive?
  2. How are we assured that the resources of the country, both natural and human, benefit Filipino nationals principally?
  3. What are the human, social, and environmental costs of lifting present limits to foreign participation in Philippine economic and business affairs?

The CBCP issued this statement after the economic charter change proposal moved to the plenary for a vote at the House of Representatives. 

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr says economic charter change will help create jobs and improve the country’s economy. Critics, however, assert that boosting the economy should be “localized.” (READ: Charter change for economic good? Most Filipinos unaware)

No to ‘exploitation of resources’ 

In his pastoral statement, Villegas also pointed out that the framers of the 1987 Constitution limited foreigner ownership of land and businesses to promote social justice. They meant to preserve “the wealth and resources of the country for our countrymen.”

“Rightly, we have always steered away from the prospect of foreigners enriching themselves by the country’s resources and our labor force, transferring their earnings overseas, and leaving us none the better because of their presence and their exploitation of our resources, both natural and human! This should remain a paramount principle,” Villegas wrote. 

Still, he noted that, according to observers, “limiting foreign control of some corporations,” such as banks and media, “has been counterproductive.”

He said, “It is claimed that we have so many resources that remain untapped – beneficial to none – because local capital is just woefully insufficient for capital-intensive ventures.”

Villegas added that constitutional amendments regarding the Philippines’ form of government “are matters that we, your bishops, leave to politicians and to their discernment.” 

On the other hand, proposed amendments to economic provisions “bear directly on issues of social justice,” which the Catholic Church “has always considered…an area of her competence and solicitude.”

Villegas was referring to the Catholic Church’s rich collection of encyclicals, or letters from popes through the years, about workers’ rights and social justice. 

One of these encyclicals, Rerum Novarum, issued in May 1891, tackles the “rights and duties of capital and labor.” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at