The House of Representatives is abiding by its bills seeking a constituent convention (Con-con) to amend the Constitution, but Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said Friday lawmakers are open to discussing with the Senate their preferred mode of amending the 1987 Charter if that will break an impasse and lead to an agreement between the two chambers of Congress.
“We are open to considering any proposal of the Senate and will submit such a proposal to members of the House,” Romualdez said.
“This was what I relayed to Rep. Richard Gomez when he informed me that senators are amenable to economic amendments but through a constituent assembly (Con-Ass).”
Romualdez commended the efforts of Gomez and Senator Robinhood Padilla in trying to forge an agreement between the House and the Senate on this issue.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian admitted that the ultimate reason some senators have misgivings about Charter change is the fear that the Senate may be abolished.
Gatchalian also said there were concerns over a possible change from the current form of government to a federal system, which could cost the government P300 billion.
He added that a change in the form of government would also disrupt economic activity as businesses would have to adjust to the new system.
He said while he doesn’t know if there is an attempt to abolish the Senate, this could happen. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
A number of business groups, meanwhile, said a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution would be a “very expensive disruption” to the economy.
They urged the Senate to carefully consider a number of concerns that are debatable—like the belief that current efforts by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the current reforms will be enough to achieve
substantial economic gains.
The group is made up of the Filipina CEO Circle, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Justice Reform Initiative (JRI), the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (Philwen), and WomenBizPH.
“We have long supported proposals to amend economic provisions of the constitution that impede trade, investment, innovation, competition, and economic and job growth,” the groups said.
“However, enacted laws and regulations like amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investment Act, the passage of the Rice liberalization Act and the Department of Energy allowing 100 percent foreign ownership in the renewable energy sector have addressed many of these impediments,” they added.
Concerned business organizations believe these laws, combined with the President’s efforts to revive local and foreign investment, can accelerate recovery and job growth at a time when the Philippines and the world face serious economic headwinds.
The groups noted that investors look for stability when making investment decisions. The possibly lengthy and fractious process of amending the Constitution may make investors take a wait-and-see attitude for an extended period of time and therefore derail the impact of reforms.
Further, they also believe that Congress should be more invested in passing at least two more tax reform bills and other measures like the Ease of Paying Taxes bill, instead of spending precious time trying to tweak the country’s Constitution.
“We believe these can greatly enhance government revenue and job creation at this critical time,” the groups said.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), a constitutional convention may cost about P14 billion to P28 billion.
A pending proposal, House Bill 7352, estimated a delegation of 300 representatives who would get P10,000 per day or a total of P3 million per day. The amount is expected to hit P400 million for the 7-month project on top of other expenditures.
The groups were in agreement that these funds can be better used to improve agriculture and address high inflation; to beef up transportation to enable Filipinos to get to work and home in much less time; and to introduce much-needed social services on health, education, and social security.
The proposed budget of P14 billion, instead, may be used to double the spending on farm-to-market roads; increase by half spending on irrigation or the national rice program; double the spending on school buildings; or almost double the spending on hospital and health centers.
“We respectfully urge the Senate and the House, if and when the deliberations progress — to consider these and other points raised by our colleagues in various sectors as you decide on this potentially disruptive proposal at a time when the country may be poised to regain its economic momentum,” the business organization said.