Big business supporting economic amendments in Charter—Nograles

Published by rudy Date posted on April 22, 2009

HOUSE Speaker Prospero Nograles claims big business is supporting his proposal to amend the Constitution’s economic provisions, saying that would make the business environment more resilient.

He made the statement Monday night even as the House yesterday began its debates on his House Resolution 737, which seeks to amend the Constitution to allow foreigners to fully own land and other properties in the Philippines, and to make the country less protective.

But opponents of the resolution tried to stall the proceedings.

“Big businesses support my proposal because they agree that this would make our economic policy and business environment resilient amid the global economic crisis,” Nograles said in an interview Monday night.

He cited the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Makati Business Club.

“I talked with them sometime last year, and in our dialog they expressed their support for my proposal,” Nograles said but stressed that those groups did not specifically ask him to file a proposal to amend the Charter.

Nograles says allowing foreigners to own land here would attract more foreign investors that could help the Philippines weather the economic crisis.

But opponents of Charter change have vowed to oppose any moves to amend the Constitution amid fears it would pave the way for the extension of the term of elective officials, particularly President Arroyo, who is set to step down in 2010.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales yesterday called for a constitutional commission to amend the Constitution, saying that would be “cheap, uncomplicated and very quick.”

But Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III criticized him for making the call, saying it was beyond his authority to make it.

“His statements on political matters are entirely his own and have nothing to do with the Palace or the administration,” Bello said.

“The palace is not in a Charter change mode. We are preparing for the 2010 elections.”

In yesterday’s proceedings, Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros questioned the propriety of any deliberations to take up a proposed constitutional amendment, saying that could only be done if Congress was convened as a constituent assembly.

But Majority Leader Arthur Defensor insisted they could discuss the measure on changing the Charter as an ordinary bill as provided for in Section 140 of the House Rules.

Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong, who acted as presiding officer, put the issue to a vote and Hontiveros was outvoted. He then recognized the chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, to deliver his sponsorship speech on Resolution 737.

But before Ortega could begin, Nueva Ecija Rep. Eduardo Nonato Joson stood up to move to “postpone the deliberations” on Resolution 737 on the same grounds raised by Hontiveros.

The issue was again put to a vote, but Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III questioned the quorum and then called for a nominal voting after a quorum was established.

Meanwhile, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte yesterday handed over to Nograles his draft resolution seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.

Villafuerte took back the draft resolution from Nograles earlier for “minor revisions,” and Nograles said yesterday he would want to go over the Villafuerte resolution before filing it.

“It was given to me just an hour ago, [and] I’d like to read it first. If not tonight, [I will file it] tomorrow,” Nograles said.

The changes in the Villafuerte resolution made it clear that three-fourths of the total number of congressmen and senators voting would be needed to amend the constitution through a constituent assembly. –Roy Pelovello, with Joyce Pangco Pañares, Manila Standard Today

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