House body approves Charter change proposal

By Sammy F. Martin

MANILA, March 3 (PNA) — Voting 24-2-1, the Committee on Constitutional Amendments of the House of Representatives on Monday approved Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1 aiming to insert “unless otherwise provided by law” in the economic provision of the 1987 Constitution introduced by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, who chairs the committee, said the approved resolution will be forwarded to the plenary for second reading.

Those who voted against the resolution were Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Colmenares while Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, abstained from the voting.

Despite repeated statement of Malacanang that Charter change (Cha-cha) is not a priority of the administration, allies still push for Cha-cha amendments.

In particular, the resolution is eyeing to amend economic provisions on the 60-40 rule that limits foreign ownership of certain activities in the Philippines.

The resolution will include the phrase “unless provided by law” in the foreign-ownership provision of the Constitution, particularly land ownership, public utilities, natural resources, media and advertising industries.

Under Article XII of the Constitution, foreign investors are prohibited to own more than 40 percent of real properties and businesses, while they are totally restricted to exploit natural resources and own any company in the media industry.

The amendments to the Charter will be approved through separate votings by the both Chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — with a three-fourth votes required from them.

The Cha-cha debate will start as Congress resumes session on May 5 as they are prepared to go on Lenten recess on March 15.

Earlier, Belmonte reiterated that the amendments are purely for the economic provisions.

Belmonte stressed he will not allow any member to insert any provision other than what is specified in his resolution.

“I will personally block any attempt (to insert other provisions) and I will definitely discourage it. I will stop the plenary debate if there’s a move on term extension,” Belmonte assured reporters when asked how he will stop colleagues to amend other provision other than his proposal.

“This is simple provisions on the economic, and in the course of session, all source of political changes will not be allowed,” he noted.

The Speaker has also expressed confidence that his proposal will get the vote of majority in the Lower Chamber.

He said Congress is set to prioritize Cha-cha with the Lower Chamber as the main proponent of the measure although senators would still wait for the House version once it passed the third reading.

The Speaker said that Cha-cha is a larger contributor to economic growth as foreign direct investments (FDI) are seen to increase once ownership on estates and corporations, one of the issues raised by investors for not investing in the country, is relaxed. (PNA)