House proposal seeking to ease foreign ownership restrictions in Charter filed

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By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

CONGRESSMEN filed on Monday a measure to ease economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, the same as the Senate’s Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, to speed up congressional moves toward Charter change (“Cha-cha”).

In filing Resolution of Both Houses No. 7, House Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio D. Gonzales, Jr. said it carries the same proposals being tackled in the Senate’s RBH 6, particularly on lifting restrictions on foreign ownership in public utilities, education and advertising.

“We need to deliberate on the proposed amendments simultaneous with the Senate to fast-track the process,” Mr. Gonzales told a news briefing in Filipino.

“We would rather work with what the Senate wants to amend,” Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte told the same briefing, adding that having a separate set of amendments might delay Charter change proceedings.

As such, RBH 7 also seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in Article 12, 14, and 16 of the Charter.

“It will give Congress the discretion to adjust the percentage of ownership of franchises, educational institutions and advertising industries,” Mr. Gonzales said.

The Charter currently mandates the state to protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices and limits land ownership to Filipino citizens and corporations that are at least 60% Filipino-owned.

The identical version of the RBH will be deliberated “exhaustively” in a committee of the whole, which would include all members of the House.

The House’s legislative timeline would be shorter than the Senate’s RBH 6, which must undergo deliberations in a subcommittee, public hearings, and approval in its mother committee before it sent to the plenary for debate.

“As a co-equal partner in Congress, we are doing this so we can already also start in the House hearings [and] discussions on this matter,” Mr. Villafuerte said.

“We will try our best to work double time on this,” House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose M. Dalipe told the same briefing.

House lawmakers are seeking to fast-track the measure by the middle of the year, before Congress becomes busy with its budget deliberations for next year.

“We have more or less three months [or] four months of legislative time to actually tackle this,” House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. David C. Suarez said during the briefing.

Last year, congressmen approved its own version of the resolution calling for Charter change via a constitutional convention, wherein delegates will be elected per district to amend the Constitution. Its counterpart measure in the Senate only reached the committee level.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. backed proposals to amend the Constitution, as it is “not written for a globalized world.”

“We have to adjust so that we can increase the economic activities in the Philippines. We can attract more foreign investors,” he had said.

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