Press Releases

On the Senate’s statement on People’s Initiative

January 25th, 2024

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda
23 January 2024

The People’s Initiative is a valid mode of amending the Constitution. Neither the Senate nor the House can deny this. That is why, despite its broad powers to legislate, the Senate can issue only a statement against the People’s Initiative. Ultimately, over and above the House and the Senate, the people are supreme and sovereign.

Once the signature campaign crosses the 12% threshold for registered voters nationwide, and 3% per district, the Constitution should operate, and a plebiscite to bring the matter to the people directly is in order.

I do want to address the Senate resolution’s issue with foreign ownership of land. When we “protect” our restrictive land policies, do we really intend to protect a failure?

Are we protecting our farms, or starving it of capital? We have the lowest farm mechanization among all major ASEAN economies (1.2 horsepower per hectare versus 1.6 percent on average).

Are we protecting our farmers or keeping them poor? Over 42% of agricultural households are poor, versus 11 percent for non-agricultural households. That means our non-agricultural households alone are already at the same poverty rate as rich countries like Germany and Canada.

Are we protecting our agriculture sector or keeping it stunted? The agriculture sector GVA growth has been stuck at an average of 0.46 percent per year, even as the annual growth rate of the population has been at 1.5 percent. If we keep at this rate, we will depend more on imported food every year, or starve.

The world’s best countries for agricultural efficiency – Israel and Netherlands – impose no restrictions on foreign ownership of private land. And these are very small countries with limited land supply. As a result of keeping the tap open, the flow of foreign capital and technology in their agriculture is steady.

We have already tried some of the most radically nativist land policies the world has ever known – from comprehensive land reform, to near-total restrictions on the foreign ownership of land, to heavy tariffs against agricultural imports, to restrictions in land consolidation. Nothing has worked to actually feed our people and lift farmers out of poverty.

Perhaps we should try freedom: The freedom of the people to amend their constitution. The freedom of farmers to work with foreign capital and technology. The freedom of Filipinos to invest in the agriculture sector.

Frankly, to address the heart of the matter, so what if a foreigner buys land? As long as he buys it at a fair price and invests to make it productive. I would rather allow the foreigner to do agriculture here, than import cheaper food abroad with hard-earned OFW dollars. We Filipinos are already among the largest landowners in Australia and that country does not complain.

We should not be afraid of the popular will. The House is not, and the Senate, as a bastion of democracy, should not be.

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