A senior lawmaker on Tuesday urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to “reconsider” his position on constitutional reform in order to sustain the country’s high economic growth on his watch with bigger foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, a lead proponent of a measure—House Bill (HB) 4926—endorsing Charter change via the Con-Con route, issued the statement after the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved by a 17-3 vote with one abstention of a still unnumbered Resolution of Both Houses (RBH), seeking the election of delegates to study and propose reforms to the 1987 Constitution.
This committee, chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, voted for the bill last Monday after holding several regular meetings and public hearings in various parts of the country on pending proposals to amend the Constitution either by a duly elected Constitutional convention (Con-Con) or by the Congress convening itself into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).
“We are hoping that the committee vote for our Con-Con proposal would clear the way to its swift plenary approval by the House,” Villafuerte said. “It is our hope, too, that with this panel vote, President Marcos would reconsider his position on Charter change.”
Villafuerte recalled that during the recent grand opening of the New Terminal Building of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga, President Marcos said that “we will do everything” to nurture strong partnerships between his administration and potential investors.
“Given that the 60-40 ownership cap in our Constitution is apparently one deal breaker that has turned off foreign investors despite the investment-grade ratings of the Philippines for over a decade now,” said Villafuerte, “we believe that giving priority to Charter change to take out this restrictive economic provision is one of the must-do’s that the President could consider to foster stronger partnerships with prospective investors leading to greater FDI inflows.”
“That the 60-40 ownership cap has apparently been a damper on foreign investor appetite is borne out, he said, by official data pointing to continued weak FDI inflows despite our country’s investment-grade ratings and status as one of Asia’s economic over-achievers,” the lawmaker said.
Citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data, Villafuerte noted that FDI inflows retreated by over 13 percent over the January-November 2022 period to $8.43 billion from $9.74 billion in the same period in 2021.
He said even President Marcos’ economic managers apparently see no significant reversal of this FDI downtrend in the near future as they had reportedly slashed their FDI target for 2023 to $11 billion from the original $12.5 billion.
Earlier, Villafuerte had pointed out that despite a troika of business-friendly laws signed during the previous administration, FDI inflows have not been as large as those streaming to our Southeast Asian neighbors because our inward-looking Constitution prohibits foreigners from taking full control of Philippine corporations and owning lands needed for their local businesses.
Hence, he said, a Con-Con comprising duly elected delegates is the more feasible route, in lieu of the Con-Ass option, as he asserted on TV that the House would go ahead on this latest Charter change initiative even if the President claimed recently that amending our Constitution is not one of his administration’s priorities.
Villafuerte said the House is targeting to make a final decision on this matter before the year is over, “and maybe we can have a plebiscite by the first quarter of next year.”
Villafuerte pointed out that the best time for Charter change to happen is right now at the start of the Marcos presidency when such an initiative wouldn’t raise doubts about a possible hidden agenda to extend terms of incumbent elective officials.
HB 4926 calls for the election of Con-Con delegates at one representative per legislative district. There are currently 243 congressional districts in the country.