Zubiri thinks charter change moves delayed 3 new laws
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri expressed his suspicion on Wednesday that the delay in the approval of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for three laws intended to entice foreign investments might be linked to charter change (cha-cha).
According to Zubiri, the National Economic and Development Authority and other appropriate state agencies have yet to finalize the IRR for three laws more than a year since these were passed during the 18th Congress:
- Public Service Act (Republic Act No. 11659)
- Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RA 11595)
- Foreign Investment Act (RA 11647)
The Public Service Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Grace Poe, allowed full foreign ownership of vital industries previously covered by the 60-40 constitutional limit on the control of business enterprises, including railways, media, telecommunications, and airlines.
The two other laws, on the other hand, lowered the minimum investments in micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises to encourage more foreign investors to come into the country.
Zubiri said these pieces of legislation were already sufficient to address the economic matters that charter change proponents wanted to revise in the Constitution.
“Are they delaying [the approval of IRR] for some underlying reason? Why don’t they let the IRR go and let it out so that more direct foreign investments can come to the country,” he said in a TV interview.
“These three [laws] were [passed] to answer the problems in the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution,” he added. “What else do we want to loosen up in the Constitution for economic reasons? Is it the ownership of land? Because personally, I am against the [full foreign] ownership of land.”
Zubiri, who has a degree in agribusiness management, said that allowing foreigners to own properties would only increase the price of land in the country.
“I’m sure that it’s going to be very difficult if we open up [land ownership] because we all know who’s going to come here and buy all the homes in all the high-end subdivisions, including all the other homes around Metro Manila,” he warned.
18 votes needed
For the nth time, the Senate leader reiterated that charter change would not earn the support of his colleagues in the 19th Congress.
“We need 18 votes in the Senate to push charter change. We don’t have that number. So to us, it’s moot and academic,” Zubiri pointed out.
The main proponent of charter change at the House of Representatives, meanwhile, said that he had been invited by his Senate counterpart, Sen. Robinhood Padilla, to attend a public hearing on Monday on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6.
The resolution, which calls for the formation of a 314-member hybrid constitutional convention to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution, was overwhelmingly approved on the third and final reading by 301 lawmakers on March 6, with only seven opposed. Its implementing bill, House Bill No. 7352, was passed on the third reading on March 14.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said he hoped Padilla’s panel on constitutional amendments and revision on laws would also tackle HB 7352 and RBH 6 in the public hearing to be held at the Senate.
“I will explain to senators and the public that our intention in our charter change initiative, as repeatedly stated by Speaker Martin Romualdez, is to rewrite the economic provisions so the country could attract more foreign investments,” he said.
“That is our only objective. We do not want the other parts of the Constitution to be touched,” he added.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE
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