THE House Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved Wednesday proposed amendments that could extend the terms of local officials, create regional representation in an expanded Senate, and ease restrictions on foreign investment.
The approval of the amendments, contained in an unnumbered resolution of both houses (RBH) was confirmed Thursday by the Committee Chairman, Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez of the Second District of Cagayan de Oro.
One of the amendments includes the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law” on economic provisions in the Constitution that limit the participation of foreign investors. The addition of this phrase would authorize Congress to pass laws that would ease foreign investment rules.
“…so we deem it that it is about time to be able to encourage more foreign investors to come to the country because we are really behind Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and most of these countries. We are only ahead a little of Cambodia and Laos and Myanmar and the rest have overtaken us in foreign direct investment (FDI). And that is why we need these foreign investments to (raise) more taxes for the government and for the employment of more Filipinos,” Mr. Rodriguez told reporters.
Under Article XII of the Constitution, foreign ownership of property and businesses is limited to 40%.
The other amendments to the Constitution seek the election of regional senators and the extension of the term of local officials.
According to the resolution, the Senate should be composed of twenty-seven senators instead of twenty-four. Three senators will then represent each of the following regions: the National Capital Region, Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and the Bangasamoro Autonomous Region.
The RBH also cuts the term of Senators to five years from the current six, but they will be able to serve for three consecutive terms instead of two.
The proposal also seeks to extend the term of local government officials and members of the House of Representatives from the current three years to five years.
Mr. Rodriguez said that “three years is too short to be able to implement projects,” adding that the current government officials would not be able to benefit from the additional term as the RBH will apply after the 2020 elections.
The RBH also proposes that the President and the Vice-President be voted in as a team, ruling out recent cases of the top two officials coming from different political parties.
Asked about the initial enthusiasm for federalism of the Duterte administration, Mr. Rodriguez replied, “There is no consensus. There is also a lot of opposition.”
In a news conference Thursday, Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate of the Bayan Muna Party List came out against the amendments easing foreign investment restrictions.
“Ibig-sabihin, halimbawa doon sa… exploration of our natural resources, development of our natural resources, is limited to Filipino Citizens, kung korporasyon man yan sixty percent, ay pwede na itong baguhin sa pamamagitan lamang ng isang batas na ilalabas ng Kongreso, (It suggests that in the exploration for natural resources, which is currently limited to Filipino citizens, a 60%-owned foreign corporation can now come in on the strength of a law passed by Congress),” Mr. Zarate said.
The Committee on Rules will endorse the unnumbered RBH to the plenary by next week, according to Mr. Rodriguez.
Foreign ownership amendments were also proposed during the Aquino administration by former Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. who introduced RBH 1 seeking to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the Constitution. — Genshen L. Espedido