News Column

'Charter change can bring down commodity prices'

February 14, 2014

By Llanesca T. Panti, The Manila Times, Philippines



Feb. 14--Amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution to allow more foreign ownership in investments will bring down the prices of commodities, an official from the American Chamber (AmCham) of Commerce in the Philippines said.

John Forbes, AmCham senior advisor, made the pronouncement after House leaders met with Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine Business Groups in a consultative dialogue with an aim to craft a common economic legislative reform agenda that will sustain inclusive growth.

Under the existing Constitution, foreigners are restricted to own 40 percent of public utilities, media entities, land, exploration of natural resources, 30 percent for advertising firms, and other business ventures since Filipinos should own the majority percentage.

"It has been true for years that business groups would like to have more investments because more investments mean more competition, leveled playing filed and job creation. With more competition, we'll have newer, better technology and lower prices for all of us," Forbes said in a chance interview.

Forbes noted that the foreign chambers of commerce are supportive of House Resolution No.1 authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City that seeks to lift the restrictions on foreign ownership for the abovementioned entities.

"The countries represented in the foreign chambers [who were in the meeting] are very open in that way [in terms of foreign ownership of businesses]. That's the way it is in Europe, United States and Canada. We'll come to hearings on the House Resolution 1 and serve as resource persons to provide information to Congress," Forbes pointed out.

"The economic restriction is a factor to unemployment rate, but there are other factors--such as large population growth, old infrastructure, high power costs, high business costs . . . but we're are getting there. We are doing better," Forbes added.

Speaker Belmonte has long been in favor of relaxing the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, but President Benigno Aquino 3rd has remained adamant to amending the 1987 Constitution, drafted when his late mother, Corazon Aquino, assumed Presidency in 1987 after Ferdinand Marcos' 20-yeardictatorship.

Aquino chairs the ruling Liberal Party (LP), while Belmonte is LP's vice chairman.

Forbes, however, is not convinced that President Aquino is totally against Charter Change.

"I don't see his statements expressing opposition. What he is saying is that not at this time and not to tinker with political provisions," Forbes said.

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Source: Manila Times (Phillipines)


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