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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

02 June 2021 05:13:29 PM

The chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Wednesday welcomed a statement from Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III signifying the openness of the Senate to tackle a resolution seeking to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“It is a welcome development for the Senate President to say that they will tackle the economic Charter change once it is transmitted to the Senate,” AKO BICOL Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said, referring to Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 (RBH 2), which the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading last Tuesday.

Sotto earlier said that senators may tackle RBH 2 after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address in July, adding that the measure will have “better chances” of being approved in the Senate if the amendments are indeed limited to economic concerns.

RBH 2, authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, seeks to give Congress the flexibility to amend specific constitutional provisions, which restrict foreign ownership and participation on certain investment areas and activities in the country, by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

The changes to the 34-year-old Charter shall be introduced during the 19th Congress once the people approved of the proposed economic amendments during a plebiscite possibly coinciding with the May 2022 elections.

Guesting at the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum, Garbin explained that the Constitution provides that proposed amendments shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite, which shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of such amendments or revision.

This gives the Senate until February 2022 to debate and approve RBH 2, Garbin pointed out.

“Tamang-tama lamang po ‘yung February [2022] para hindi na gumastos ng malaki ang gobyerno rito, isasama na sa 2022 national elections. They (senators) have enough time. Sapat po ang oras pagdebatehan,” Garbin said.

Garbin said it would not be hard to convince the senators to approve RBH 2, considering that the amendments will only be limited to certain economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution.

“Hindi mahirap sang-ayunan ito ng Senado. Ang purpose lamang (ng RBH 2) ay to ease foreign equity restriction and at the same time give Congress the flexibility to enact laws that will answer the needs of time,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Garbin expressed his gratitude to the 251 House members who voted in favor of RBH 2. “Nagpapasalamat tayo sa ipinakitang suporta ng mga kasamahan natin sa House of Representatives,” he said.

He added: “This is a historic first for the 18th Congress kung saan nakailang attempt since 13th Congress, if I’m not mistaken, pero ngayon lang naipasa sa third and final reading—and now we will be transmitting it to the Senate.”

Garbin also addressed the issues on the timing of the approval of RBH 2, underscoring its importance in stimulating the economy which has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We talked about this solution in contributing to stimulating the economy or providing solution to economic recovery. Dahil nga po sa ngayon dapa ang ating ekonomiya but it is better for us to prepare our business environment attractive to the would-be investors by the time we open up the economy or by the time na matapos ang pandemyang ito,” Garbin said.

Garbin also reiterated that RBH 2 will be exclusively confined to economic provisions and that the House will not allow insertion of any political provisions.

“Patuloy na sinasabi ni Speaker Velasco that we will never touch political provisions because that will only contribute division and will muddle the proposed constitutional amendment,” Garbin said.

“The moment that anybody will introduce political provisions such as lifting the term limits or introducing amendments to the structure of the government, hindi ito maipapasa sa House of Representatives dahil kulang ang suporta ‘pag may political provisions,” he added.#