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Experts press for economic Cha-cha as more Pinoys back lifting of restrictions

Manila Standard

Experts pressed for lifting of economic restrictions in the 1987 charter in order to foster a business-friendly environment and seize opportunities for economic growth.

The House of Representatives has approved the Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 (RBH7), which proposes to open up to foreign investors the public utilities, education, and advertising sectors.

The Senate, on the other hand, continues with its public hearings on the proposals.

A recent Pulse Asia survey has shown the more Filipinos favor amending the constitution because it could yield significant economic benefits.

Conducted from March 6 to 10, 2024, the Pulse Asia survey engaged 1,200 respondents nationwide. Most notably, respondents anticipate a

surge in high-quality job opportunities, improved services, and a decline in the prices of goods.

These sentiments underscore a growing recognition of the potential economic advantages that could stem from liberalizing foreign investment regulations.

Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) board member Gary Teves underscored the urgency of aligning Philippine laws with international standards, warning against potential investors opting for countries with more favorable legal frameworks.

“If the legal framework in the Philippines is so different from the others, they might say let’s just go out to the next country,” Teves pointed out.

TradeAdvisors CEO Tony Abad reiterated the necessity of amending the Constitution to attract investors, cautioning against maintaining a rigid and outdated legal framework.

“We can’t have a rigid, old-fashioned and very faulty Constitution in place. It’s gonna be a great disservice to the population,” Abad said.

He added: “You need a Constitution that makes your government and your people move fast – address changes quickly. That’s why there’s no sequencing, you don’t have to address corruption first.”

FEF lead economist Cha Ubarra emphasized the risk of constitutional challenges to laws unlocking foreign investments without Charter change, advocating for provisions ensuring legal stability.

“What adding ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ can do is to stop the possibility of that door locking again,” Ubarra said.

Stratbase Institute president Dindo Manhit emphasized that investments are vital for enhancing productivity, generating employment, and alleviating economic hardships.

He stressed the importance of implementing market-friendly public policies, fostering transparency, and ensuring good governance to attract more investments.

The survey sesults showed 64% of respondents foresee an increase in high-quality jobs with better salaries and benefits, while 56% anticipate enhanced services for stakeholders.

Concerns however were also raised, with 55% expressing apprehension that foreign capital might overshadow local businesses, and 54% believing that the prices of goods and services could decrease.

Meanwhile, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday said the 1987 Constitution should be amended to allow foreigners to own public utilities because the amended Public Services Act allowing increased foreign ownership is illegal.

Carpio was referring to the amended Public Services Act which allows 100% foreign ownership of public services such as telecommunications and railways, among others.

The law reclassifies telecommunications, railways, airlines, and logistical facilities as public services from their previous classification as public utilities.

Under the 1987 Constitution, foreigners may only own up to 40% of public utilities.

“They redefined the term public utility. Public utility is limited to this, but all the rest will now be considered public services. Now, we all know that Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the Constitution. That is the primordial power of the Supreme Court. Without that, the Supreme Court is nothing,” Carpio said in a university forum on Charter Change initiatives. With a report from GMA

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