Business Group Supports Economic Charter Change

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The Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (JFC) has expressed its support for the amendment of the “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution. However, some members of the JFC remain cautious about the ongoing debate on Charter change. The JFC, which represents the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, and Korean chambers of commerce in the Philippines, along with the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Headquarters Inc., is a coalition of over 3,000 companies engaged in trade and investment.

During the hearing on Resolution of Both Houses 6 (RBH 6) to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, listened to the sentiments of the JFC. Julian Payne, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Florian Gottein, Executive Director of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, represented the JFC in the hearing.

Payne stated that the JFC supports the relaxation of restrictions on foreign direct investments (FDIs) wherever possible. He emphasized that removing economic restrictions would encourage increased FDI in sectors currently limited by such restrictions. Gottein added that amending the Constitution is a matter solely for the Philippines to decide. He expressed the JFC’s support for the removal of economic restrictions if the Filipino people choose to amend the Constitution.

Sen. Mary Grace Poe raised concerns about the JFC members’ apprehensions regarding the issues surrounding Charter change. Gottein acknowledged that some uncertainty exists among their members due to the news and political debate surrounding the matter.

Sen. Angara acknowledged the diverse interests represented by the JFC and reminded everyone to consider their input with a critical perspective, recognizing that their primary goal is to profit from their investments in the country.

National scientist Raul Fabella expressed his favor for lifting the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership. He highlighted that the Philippines has traditionally had the lowest investment rate among major ASEAN countries. Fabella argued that a country that invests less will eventually fall behind those that invest more. He attributed this anti-investment culture to the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership, which signals a national discomfort with investors, both foreign and local.

Retired justice Antonio Carpio, who also attended the hearing, suggested that constitutional amendments may not be necessary to open up the country’s public services sector to foreign investments. He believed that the Constitution does not require any changes to enable foreign investments in the services industry.

Dr. Bernardo Villegas, Chairman of the 1986 Constitutional Commission Committee on National Economy and Patrimony, echoed Fabella’s viewpoint. He acknowledged the imperfections of the 1987 Constitution and expressed the need for future amendments to align with the changing times.

Trade and Industry Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba emphasized that the call for constitutional economic reforms does not mean relinquishing national interests. Instead, it is a strategy to align with the inevitable global economic currents.

Despite the support from the JFC and various experts, some senators, including Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, and Mary Grace Poe, expressed reservations about the need for constitutional reforms to increase FDIs. They questioned whether such reforms were necessary and whether they truly served the best interests of the country.

In conclusion, the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines supports the amendment of the “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution. The JFC believes that removing economic restrictions will encourage increased foreign direct investments in sectors currently limited by these restrictions. However, there are differing opinions among experts and senators regarding the necessity of constitutional reforms to attract more FDIs. The ongoing debate on Charter change highlights the importance of carefully considering the potential impact of such amendments on the country’s economy and national interests.

Source: The Manila Times

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