The House of Representatives approved on 2nd reading on Wednesday, May 26, the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2, which seeks to amend economic provisions of the Philippine Constitution.
Voting viva voce, the House approved the resolution after it underwent hours of interpellation at the House floor.
RBH 2 adds the line “unless otherwise provided by law” to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. The end goal of this addition is to empower Congress to pass laws lifting current restrictions on foreign investors.
Supporters of the resolution argued that easing up restrictions against foreign investments would help the Philippine economy rise faster from the downturn dealt by the coronavirus pandemic.
The hurdling the 2nd reading means that the House was one step closer from finally approving the resolution. The primary proponent of the resolution, AKO Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin, said the House and Senate would vote separately on the proposal.
Even if the House forces the Senate to convene with them and outvotes them in the final nod, proponents pointed out that the House still ultimately cannot force the Senate later to pass a bill that would provide for the required plebiscite on the proposed amendments.
The Senate still has not declared support for the proposed changes in the Constitution. (READ: Senators question timing of Cha-Cha talks: ‘One big step into quicksand’)
Risk of default?
Before its approval, Quezon City 6th District Representative Kit Belmonte warned on Tuesday, May 25, that if the constitutional amendments were realized, the Philippines would be in danger of falling into default from debts with foreign countries.
Belmonte pointed to Sri Lanka, which accumulated so much debt with China, that it had to give up a key port to the Asian superpower. Belmonte said the RBH No. 2 should add provisions that would promote “reciprocity” in dealing with foreign countries.
The Quezon City lawmaker suggested that a provision be added that if a foreign country invests in the Philippines, that country should also open itself up for the Philippines to invest in return.
Garbin argued that the Constitution already covered reciprocity.
“The State shall pursue a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity,” Section 13 of the Constitution states.
A debate on media ownership
In his interpellation on Wednesday, Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Cavite 7th District Representative Jesus Crispin Remulla questioned why the resolution also proposed opening foreign investments in media.
Remulla raised two points: Opening media ownership risks an “invasion of the mind”, and that the economic gains are not certain in allowing foreign media ownership.
“Ang pagsakop sa Pilipino, ‘di lang sa kanyang katawan, kundi sa kanyang pag-iisip (The invasion of the Filipino is not only of the body but also of the mind),” Remulla said, referring to previous colonizations of the country.
Garbin addressed the concern on economic gains by pointing to media companies now currently using Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), which allows investments without giving foreigners ownership.
“Our domestic market lacks capitalization,” Garbin explained. – Rappler.com