Bayan Muna says amending Constitution would benefit China
MANILA, Philippines – Officials of the party-list Bayan Muna warned that pursuing Charter change (Cha-cha), or amending the 1987 Constitution, would heavily favor China.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who was with chair Neri Colmenares in the protest action launched at the Chinese Consulate Office on Friday, said that this proposal is the “most dangerous” Cha-cha ever.
“While we celebrate our victory over China we are being threatened with a Cha-cha that will obliterate whatever gains we have in the tribunal decision. This is really the most dangerous Cha-cha ever,” Zarate said in a statement.
Colmenares on the other hand slammed the stand of the administration and its allies, who are advocating for a supposedly pro-China Constitution. According to Colmenares, this contradicts the legal victory that the country gained in 2016 before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
“It is ironic that on the eve of the celebration of our victory against China at the PCA, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano declared that amending the Constitution, that will open up the Philippines to countries like China, is again a priority agenda of Congress,” Colmenares added.
According to former senatorial candidate, the latest draft of the federal charter approved during the 17th Congress has removed several provisions in the current Constitution, which safeguard the country against foreign interests.
“It deletes the requirement under Section 2 Article XII of the 1987 Constitution that the ‘exploration, development and utilization of natural resources’ can only be undertaken by the State through joint ventures or production sharing agreements ‘with Filipino citizens or corporations at least 60 percent of whose capital is owned by Filipinos,’” Colmenares noted
“This means that there will no longer be a constitutional barrier to Pres. Duterte undertaking joint exploration with the Chinese government or 100% Chinese owned corporations,” he explained.
Aside from that, Colmenares claimed that the proposed Cha-cha, as contained in the Resolution of Both Houses No. 15, would also remove the provision requiring presidents to notify Congress of contracts entered into by the government.
“This means Pres. Duterte can have any agreement with China without any obligation to have congressional participation,” he said.
“Worse, this Cha-cha will also delete the requirement under Section 7 Art. XIII of the 1987 Constitution that requires the government to protect the rights of subsistence fishermen and that such protection “shall extend to offshore fishing grounds of subsistence fishermen against foreign intrusion,’” Colmenares added.
After naming Cayetano as his preferred House Speaker, President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call for Charter change, even if the result would not be a federal state. Adopting a federal government was part of Duterte’s campaign promise in 2016.
Despite Duterte’s backing, several senators have remained cautious in amending the Constitution, mainly because there would not be enough time to do so, and because it has no urgent need to change things.
But aside from these things, Zarate reminded the public that the draft charter also got rid of certain sections which reserves the development of a self-reliant economy.
“It also deleted the provision under Article XII Sec. 1 that demands that the government “protect Filipino enterprises from unfair foreign competition and trade practices,” Zarate said.
“This Cha-cha will not only open up the Philippines to Chinese labor but even its businesses including retail business which has been gobbling up local hardwares, groceries and other retail business of small Filipino enterprises. Under this Cha-cha, the Philippine economy could be ‘effectively controlled’ not by Filipinos but by China,” he insisted.
The lawmaker — who is also vying for the Speakership post — asked his colleagues and even those allied with Duterte not to allow the passage of such measures.
“I call on my colleagues not to approve this Cha-cha but in fact oppose any attempt by the House leadership to ram it down the throats of the Filipino people,” Zarate said.
“We call on members of the House, even those loyal to Pres. Duterte, not to give away our country to foreigners. Presidents come and go, in a few years time, President Duterte will no longer be there, but if we amend the Constitution, this will be with us for many years to come condemning our sons and daughter to the control of China,” he added. /jpv
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