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Salceda lauds passage on 3rd reading of economic charter change

June 2nd, 2021

Salceda lauds passage on 3rd reading of economic charter change; calls on Senate to pass its version

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district), a principal sponsor of the proposed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2, which would amend economic restrictions of the 1987 Constitution, hailed the approval on 3rd reading of the proposed charter amendments, saying that he believes there is time to complete the legislative process in the proposal “in time for plebiscite in 2022.” Salceda also renewed calls for the Senate to pass its own counterpart measure.

“The ball is now with the Senate. One thing the House leadership has proven with our expeditious passage of economic reforms is that we are not standing in the way of tunay na pagbabago on the economic front. Speaker Velasco has promised to be a modernizing force in policymaking, and so far, he has delivered,” Salceda said.

Salceda also repeated his reassurance that the House has no intent of introducing political provisions to the proposed revisions.

“RBH 2 is pure economic reform. We know and understand that any political charter change will be dead on arrival. Senate President Sotto has made this clear, and we are also making our intentions and position abundantly clear.” Salceda added.

“We still have time to finish this process. These are not extensive provisions. They merely open the possibility for Congressional action towards greater openness to new jobs and new industries. So, we hope the Senate can take action soon,” Salceda explained.

“Just do what works”

In his sponsorship remarks on the proposal, Salceda called on the country’s lawmakers to “simply do what already worked for our neighbors” in Southeast Asia.

In his “A tale of two countries” sponsorship speech for RBH2, a speech widely covered in Vietnamese media, Salceda cited the success of foreign investment liberalization reforms undertaken by Vietnam.

“Vietnam began to overtake us in FDI-to-GDP by 1990, just 3 years after Doi Moi and the 1987 Constitution. Due to this underperformance, the average Vietnamese will be wealthier than the average Filipino over the next decade,” Salceda said.

“You have to remember, this country began poorer than us, had more conflict that we ever had, was nearly completely bombed, and had to rebuild almost from scratch. And yet, they have leapfrogged us. The simple difference: they opened their economy to the world. We didn’t,” Salceda said.

Salceda said that the 1987 Constitution “hardcoded paranoia” and “limited the progress of future generations with the fears of the past.

Salceda also cited a study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which outlined top investment barriers. Three of those barriers, Salceda said, are present in the Philippines because of the economic restrictions in the Constitution.

The Constitution-related barriers in the top ten are “foreign ownership restrictions in the law, stipulations on management, such as regulations that nationals or residents must form a majority of the board of directors, and nationality-based restrictions on operations.

During the plenary deliberations, the sponsors, including Constitutional Amendments Chair Alfredo Garbin, were using Salceda’s estimates to defend the proposal.

Open the door and they will come

Salceda also cited that the Philippines is the most FDI-restrictive country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“We have the most doors closed of any ASEAN country. And we expect visitors to come. This makes no economic or logical sense,” Salceda said.

“We need investments to come. So, what makes sense is to open the doors that we can,” Salceda added.

According to the 2019 OECD FDI restrictiveness index, the Philippines has the highest restrictiveness score of any country in the ASEAN region.

“The Philippines has locked itself out of significant foreign investments, and therefore job creation.

We have spent hundreds of billions of pesos in foregone revenue for tax incentives, when we have not tried a simpler, cheaper solution: opening industries in need of capital to foreign investment through legislative action. Instead of sending our labor force abroad, let us attract foreign investment and create the jobs here in the Philippines,” Salceda said.

“When CREATE becomes effective this year, we will be very ready to accept investments. It would be a waste to have a modern tax incentives system that many industries cannot avail of in the first place,” Salceda added.

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