MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ownership policy on land remains to be an “emotional and divisive issue” but some Senate aspirants expressed openness in discussing the matter in order to make the economy vibrant.
“It continues to be an emotional issue,” Senator Francis Escudero told the audience of the first round of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Senate Forum on Wednesday when asked about the nation’s policy in allowing foreigners to own land.
“The Constitution should be reviewed every five years, only the 10 commandments are written in stone. (The Constitution) can be amended,” he said.
Escudero suggested that the country provide foreign investors with leasehold on land which would be “the closest they can get to ownership.”
Former senator Ernesto Maceda said that restrictive policies were discouraging foreign investors from establishing their business in the country.
“I think we receive the least foreign investments in Asia because of questionable practices, red tape,” he said.
“We should take out the economic provision which is preventing foreign investors from owning land,” Maceda added.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III believes that the country needs to undergo Charter change (Cha-cha), which is the stand of his political party PDP-Laban.
“We need Charter change. The primary motivation why I am open to Cha-cha [is that] I want to take a look at the political provisions but definitely I have reservations,” he said.
In contrast, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano was against constitutional revision, saying that there was no assurance that Charter change will cover only the economic provisions in the Constitution.
“I have reservations when it comes to Charter change. This has always been divisive and talks on Cha-cha might not stop at the economic provisions,” he told the audience, adding that extending the President’s term will always come into question.
Instead of amending the Constitution, Senator Loren Legarda urged the government act on existing laws to make them robust.
“Many laws are unfunded or not effectively being implemented. They usually call for Charter change or changes in the foreign ownership policy but the reason why we are not getting as much foreign investments is the lack of action on such laws,” she told the audience.
She said that many laws could provide livelihood for those in need if only the government implemented them efficiently.
“We have the policies… we do not need to change the Constitution,” said Legarda.
Inquirer will hold two other fora on April 18 in Baguio and on April 26 in Cebu.
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