With Congress set to adjourn sine die on June 4, senators have shown little enthusiasm for the latest effort in the House of Representatives to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution.
The House approved on second reading on May 26 Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, proposing economic Charter change. And the chamber seems bent on giving its third and final nod before the sine die adjournment. But with senators cool to economic Cha-cha, RBH 2 looks dead in the water.
With only a few days left before adjournment, senators say they prefer to focus on priority bills. If the goal is to attract more investments especially as the country emerges from the COVID pandemic, the senators point out, this can be achieved through ordinary legislation rather than tinkering with the Constitution.
RBH 2 proposes to add a simple phrase – “unless otherwise provided by law” – to constitutional provisions that bar foreign ownership, lease or control of alienable lands of public domain, natural resources, educational institutions, public utilities, mass media and advertising companies in the country. The proposal is not new; this Cha-cha mode was first raised during the previous administration.
Senators, however, point out that there are already pending urgent legislative measures that aim to ease restrictions on foreign participation in those closed sectors. Business groups have also pointed to several reforms that can be implemented without Cha-cha that will improve the country’s competitiveness and attractiveness as an investment destination.
Constitutions must be dynamic; the basic law of the land can benefit from periodic reviews to make it more responsive to the times. The so-called Freedom Constitution, ratified in 1987, was passed before dramatic advances in information and communication technology permanently altered the way the world did business.
There are other provisions in the Charter that can be revisited, such as those on political dynasties and the party-list system. Previous Cha-cha efforts have produced volumes of proposed amendments. Changes in the Constitution, however, cannot be rushed, and are best initiated at the start of a new administration. In the meantime, there are laws that can be passed and rules that can be revised, which can bring in those much needed job-generating investments.
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