Quorum of 250 the magic number for foreign ownership amendment

June 1, 2015 at 15:15

Posted on May 31, 2015 10:25:00 PM
By Melissa Luz T. LopezReporter

AT LEAST 250 congressmen must show up for a valid vote on the Constitutional amendment to relax foreign ownership restrictions on certain types of assets, a senior House official said.

The House approved on second reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH 1), which eases the cap on foreign investments by inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the charter’s economic provisions currently limiting foreigners to a 40% stake in land, public utilities, media, educational institutions, and natural resources.

Last week’s voting was done viva voce — that is, through a chorus of ayes and nays.

To hurdle third and final reading, however, the amendment bill needs to clinch at least 218 nominal votes from House members.

House Majority Floor Leader Neptali M. Gonzales II said in a radio interview on Sunday that at this rate, the RBH 1 will likely see passage ahead of the proposed Bangsamoro law.

“So long as we have a substantial number at the floor, let us say out of 289, if those responding to the roll call reach 250 thereabouts, we can vote on RBH 1,” Mr. Gonzales said.

But below that number, the measure will not be put up for voting.

“Under the Constitution, it requires three-fourths vote, [which] is about 217 of all the members. It would be hard if only 220 responded to the roll call. I will not even dare to submit that for third reading because the voting would be too narrow and it might lose.”

The highest attendance so far this year was recorded on March 18 with 241 lawmakers present, a check with House session records showed. This was a day before the House took a six-week summer break.

Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., who is also the main author of the bill, said he is considering a final House vote on RBH 1 this week.

Plenary debates on the measure started in August 2014, shortly after the opening of the second regular session. Mr. Belmonte has since identified RBH 1 as a priority, despite a cool reception from Malacañang.

Once passed, the amendment will make the rules on foreign ownership more flexible, and will allow the next Congresses to enact laws allowing foreigners to control property and other assets in the Philippines.

The amendment forms part of a seven-point legislative agenda being pushed by foreign and local business groups for passage during the last year of the Aquino administration.

Business leaders said they were “encouraged” by recent developments on the bill, as it sends positive signals for investors entering the Philippine market.

However, critics believe the measure will harm the local economy by making land more inaccessible for the poor and by disrupting local businesses.

Should the RBH 1 secure the needed votes, it still needs to secure the three-fourths vote of the Senate. Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that his chamber would only take up RBH 1 once it is passed by the House on third reading.

Congress is in its last two weeks of session before adjourning on June 11, and will reopen on July 27. Sessions are expected to end early February for the election season.

RBH 1 needs to be ratified through a nationwide plebiscite before it can take effect. Mr. Belmonte said he hopes to include the yes or no vote in the May 9, 2016 presidential ballot.

Source: https://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=quorum-of-250-the-magic-number-for-foreign-ownership-amendment&id=108858

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