House leader urges senators to keep an open mind on economic Cha-cha

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The chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments is urging senators to keep an open mind on “economic Charter change,” which calls for the minor tweaking of the Constitution’s economic provisions to attract foreign investments.

“It’s long overdue. The support and the clamor is there. The introduction of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in those restrictive provisions, as proposed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, will give Congress the flexibility and leeway to alter the restrictions when the economic situation requires it,” Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said today.

He said the slight change in the Charter’s language “will improve the investment climate and generate much needed investments and jobs to counteract the economic contraction caused by the pandemic.”

“For the first time in the 33-year history of our Constitution, we in the House see that economic Cha-cha can succeed, if only our counterparts in the Senate will keep an open mind on it and agree to consider relevant proposals from us and from their own colleagues,” he said.

He said the most recent proposal in the Senate came from Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino, while Senators Richard Gordon and Sherwin Gatchalian had earlier authored similar measures.

Garbin sought to allay fears expressed by some senators that if they agree to economic Cha-cha, that might open the Charter to wholesale amendments that could lead to extending the term of office of incumbent elective officials and lifting of the term limits.

“We are not proposing to open the basic law of the land to revisions. We want to limit ourselves to provisions relating to the economy and national patrimony. We will not touch the political sections of the Charter,” he said.

He pointed out that Speaker Velasco has given the commitment that the House would confine itself to economic Cha-cha

“The Speaker’s assurance will serve as our word of honor. In compliance with the Speaker’s instruction, my committee will not entertain any political amendment proposal,” he said.

He said the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the economic provisions “means that the present limitations will remain, but Congress would be empowered to relax or lift them in the future, depending on the country’s economic situation, to draw more foreign investments that will generate jobs and income for our people.”

“Because of the extensive damage the health crisis that is still raging has caused on our economy, we will need foreign funds to recover from the pandemic in the next two-three years,” Garbin said.

He added that economists are projecting that due to the deep economic contraction that is has suffered, the country would begin to achieve positive growth only in 2022.

“That is when we hope we already have the constitutional means in place to attract more foreign funds into the country,” he stressed.

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