A BICOL congressman yesterday said now is the time to finally relax the economic restrictions in the Constitution to address the conundrum of relatively anemic investments in the Philippines despite its status as Asia’s rising star and, lately, its fastest-growing economy.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte issued the statement as he supported Malacañang’s directive to a 25-member consultative committee tasked to revisit the 1987 Charter to review not only political provisions on changing the system of government but the Constitution’s antiquated protectionist economic sections as well.
“We should waste no time in lifting the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution as these are clearly the deal breakers for investors wanting to do business here,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte cited as proof the sharp dive in net foreign capital inflows to the Philippines last September with significant declines across all investment components, as reflected in this week’s data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
BSP data show that foreign direct investments (FDIs) posted a $469-million net inflow in September, which was a third less than the previous month’s $711 million and 69.3% lower than the $1.53 billion recorded in September 2015.
Foreign businesses also reinvested less for their Philippine operations, with September’s $35 million lower than half of August’s $67 million and a third below the year-ago figure of $51 million.
“Even Budget Secretary Ben Diokno admits that what the Philippines gets in terms of FDIs is a meager sum compared to the FDIs of other Southeast Asian economies. We cannot continue on our high growth path if our business climate remains unattractive to investors,” Villafuerte said.
In one of his news commentaries last year, Diokno pointed out that the Philippines attracted a total of $20.4 billion in FDIs from 2011 to 2015, while Singapore cornered $305.6 billion worth of investments, Indonesia, $107.6 billion, Malaysia, $56.6 billion and Thailand, $42.0 billion.
“I agree with our finance managers that our growth should be investment-led instead of consumption-led. We need more investments if we want to create more jobs, which is what we really need to lift millions of Filipinos from poverty,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte has voiced optimism that the executive and legislative departments could now switch Charter Change (Cha-Cha) and the federal switch to overdrive in 2017 following the move by Malacañang to create the 25-member Constitutional Committee (Con-Com) to help the Congress study the proposed reforms to the 1987 Constitution.
“With the creation of the 25-member Con-Com that will revisit the 1987 Constitution and come up with proposed amendments for consideration by the Congress convening as Con-Ass (Constituent Assembly), the executive and legislative branches of Government could now put the federal switch on the fast lane at the onset of 2017,” Villafuerte said.
One of the lead advocates of federalism in the Congress, Villafuerte said “the creation of the Con-Com, which will have six months to come up with the proposed constitutional reforms, would keep on schedule President Duterte’s goal of facilitating the federal shift on his watch.”
Villafuerte said this is the best setup possible that would allow the Congress to focus on urgent legislative measures without taking too much of its time holding endless debates on proposed amendments to the Constitution.