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Charter Change body wants economic restrictions lifted

A task force created to propose changes to the 1987 Constitution wants to remove economic restrictions in the Charter, including the ban on foreign investment in some industries.

In a statement, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform said opening the Philippine economy to foreigners would create jobs and lift more people out of poverty.

The Philippines is at the bottom of Southeast Asian countries in terms of foreign direct investment, and President Rodrigo R. Duterte wants to change this by changing the constitution, task force member Gary B. Olivar said.

The plan is part of the president’s 10-point agenda, he added.

The Philippine has also lagged behind six major Association of Southeast Asian Nations members in terms of infrastructure development in the past 10 years as of 2015, Mr. Olivar said.

The country has likewise been left behind by its neighbors in terms of economic growth, he added.

Economic growth has also been limited by restrictive economic provisions of the three-decade-old Constitution, Mr. Olivar said.

“Because of all of these, this policy of restrictions in foreign investments, poverty is still rampant,” he pointed out. “We are the only country in Asean that has failed to cut poverty by half in the last 25 years.”

Mr. Olivar said the Finance department wants to eliminate all references to citizenship restrictions with respect to industries such as mass media and advertising, educational institutions, practice of professions, natural resources, mineral wealth and public utilities.

“This is the only way forward to open our economy and bring in foreign investments that will then create the jobs and technology that we need to continue moving forward even after this president,” he said.

The task force, however, wants to retain the prohibition on foreigners to own land.

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said lifting restrictions on foreign investment was among the constitutional reforms they recommended to the House of Representatives.

The agency earlier said at least 256 local chief executives have expressed their support for Mr. Duterte’s push to change the 1987 Charter. The task force also obtained 22,469 signatures from various citizens who support charter change.

Broad support for constitutional change should convince senators and congressmen to amend the charter, Mr. Malaya said.

The task force last week submitted its second set of proposed changes to the Charter to the House constitutional amendments committee. It wants to strengthen political parties, ban turncoats and political dynasties as part of charter change.

The task force said the anti-political dynasty provision of the 1987 Constitution should be made self-executing. It also wants to create a democracy fund for campaign finance reforms, and extend the terms of local government officials to five years with one reelection.

The second set of proposed changes cover political and electoral reforms to strengthen democracy and improve governance. It also seeks to introduce equality provisions to ensure more funds flow to the provinces.

Mr. Duterte created the task force, which is headed by the Interior and Local Government secretary, and is composed of 15 government agencies. — Emmanuel TupasPhilippine Star