FVR: Time to let more foreign investors in by Charter change

Former President Fidel V. Ramos during the 27th Anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution at the People Power Monument in White Plains corner Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) on Monday (February 25). This year’s theme is “Pilipinas Natin, Abot Tanaw Na!”. The 1986 peaceful and bloodless uprising ousted the dictatorship and catapulted the late Corazon C. Aquino to the Presidency. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Feb 26 (Mabuhay) — Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Tuesday called for a constitutional change that will open the country to more foreign investments.

“Historically, Filipinos have opposed constitutional change. But, my dear friends, we have to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution to be more in sync with the development we’re trying to achieve,” Ramos said as he received a lifetime achievement award at The Joint Foreign Chambers’ of the Philippines Arangkada Forum: Realize the Potential!

He noted the need to review the 1987 Constitution which limits foreign equity ownership on land utilities, telecommunications, among others to 40 percent.

The charter was drafted during the term of then-President Corazon C. Aquino, mother of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In September 2011, Congressional leaders batted for a bicameral constituent assembly in reviewing the Constitution and for the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote on it separately.

Discussions, however, took a back seat, with the Cabinet review on the economic costs and gains to changes in the foreign ownership provision.

Businessmen and economists have pointed out that the provision is a bottleneck to more investments.

In a panel discussion at the forum, such a call was reiterated. “The investment clause in the Constitution impedes the development of investment in the country,” Aboitiz Power first vice president for business development Ray Cunningham noted.

“We really need open competition. We need that to go forward because people are getting impatient,” he said .

“We’re handicapped by the 60-40 foreign equity like what Ray mentioned,” telecommunications firm OPTEL Ltd. managing director Donald Felbaum said.

The need is there for “all stakeholders… the legislative members, business men… to really agree,” Ramos noted.

“We’re on the right track but we’re moving too slowly,” the former President added.

Changes to the Constitution were proposed as early as the 1990s, but these never prospered on fears of extending the terms of office of public officials. (MNS)

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