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Senate resolution seeks review of parts of 1987 Constitution impeding growth

A SENATOR has filed a resolution proposing to direct the Senate Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes Committee to conduct a review of the 1987 Constitution, particularly of provisions deemed detrimental to economic growth.

“The 1987 Constitution provides for economic provisions that impede our economic growth because of its restrictions on foreign equity in the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources, public utilities, build-operate-transfer projects, operation of deep-sea commercial vessels… (as well as) foreigners owning land, equity in mass media and the practice of professions,” Senator Robinhood Ferdinand C. Padilla said in Senate Resolution 6.

“These constitutional prohibitions put our country at a disadvantage in competing with neighboring countries in terms of the growing global marketplace of opportunities, unequal access to free trade agreements, and lack of access to foreign capital; hence, there is a compelling need to reform the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution by removing restrictive provisions that disrupt our sustained economic progress,” he added.

Mr. Padilla said economic growth has been “largely centralized” in the capital city and neighboring regions, and called for a study on federalism that devolves policy-making to governments closer to each Filipino.

Federal government, he added, will decentralize immense government power and address political and economic inequality, ensure fair access to goods and services, and correct the uneven distribution of government resources.

Meanwhile, a shift to a parliamentary system may provide political stability that would prevent unconstitutional decisions such as coups or “mob rule.”

In a separate resolution, the senator also urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to resume bilateral talks with China on cooperation in oil and gas development in the South China Sea.

In Senate Resolution 9, he said the Philippines requires a long-term strategy to resolve its oil dependency on foreign suppliers, which has proved detrimental after oil prices rose sharply with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Padilla said the new administration has the opportunity to resume bilateral talks with China without abandoning sovereign rights over disputed territory.

“In view of the gains attained from the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) where the GRP (Philippines) and PRC (China) cooperated on the terms provided therein on the gas and oil development in the West Philippine Sea, the new administration can further explore these common interests of cooperation to resolve the country’s oil dependency from foreign countries,” he added in the resolution.

The previous government terminated oil and gas exploration agreements between the Philippines and China after the failure of attempts to resolve their differences.

“The President had spoken,” former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said, referring to former President Rodrigo R. Duterte. “I carried out his instructions to the letter: Oil and gas discussions are terminated completely.”

“Nothing is pending; everything is over,” he added. “Three years on and we have not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines — but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it.”

The South China Sea is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.

Mr. Marcos has said Mr. Duterte’s nonconfrontational stance with China was “the right way.” He has also said he will pursue an independent foreign policy.

Mr. Padilla also filed Senate Bill 229 which seeks to suspend excise taxes on unleaded premium gas, regular gas and diesel, to address the effects of rising oil prices.

If passed, the measure, which seeks to amend Section 148 of the National Internal Revenue Code, will automatically suspend the excise tax for these products once the Mean of Platts Singapore quote on benchmark Dubai crude tops $80 per barrel for three months. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan