PHL MISSING OUT ON HUGE INVESTMENTS DUE TO CHARTER RESTRICTIONS

The Constitution must be “nimble and responsive” to global developments so it can help in sustaining the country’s economy, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said yesterday. Julian Payne, president of the Canadian chamber, told the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments that the Philippines has been missing out on huge investments because of restrictions on the entry of foreign capital in the country. “Capital is extremely mobile, and the Philippines has not been getting its share,” Payne told members of the panel, chaired by Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano. “Investors go where it is easier to invest, and the beauty of this legislation is that it will enable Filipinos to be responsive to realities of the 21st century,” he said. The business leader was referring to House Resolution No. 1 authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. seeking to ease the restrictions on the economic provisions of the Constitution. He said one of the global trade and economic developments that the country should take advantage of is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Under the resolution, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” would be included in various sections of Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports), and XVI (general provisions).

ALSO: Cha-cha not in PNoy’s radar

Charter change (Cha-cha) remains the farthest thing in the mind of President Benigno S. Aquino III. This was stressed by Presidential Communications Operations Herminio Coloma Jr. as he rejected allegations that the President is behind congressional moves to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. The President’s position is clear and firm. Charter change is not needed and not a priority, Coloma said. That allegation has no basis, he said, reacting to reports that Aquino has given his consent to the Charter change drive in Congress. At the House of Representatives, Cha-cha advocates said President Aquino will not “deceive” the people and will not in any way engage in double talk to push for economic amendments in the 1987 Constitution. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares had earlier said the administration allies in Congress would not insist on constitutional amendments without the President’s approval. Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad readily agreed with the House opposition solon, describing the Charter change bid as a “long con game” which is an underworld term used to describe a swindle carried out in a protracted and painstaking manner but with enormous rewards.

ALSO: Noy, Sonny Cha-cha paradox presses on

The oxymoron of President Aquino rejecting Charter change (Cha-cha) while his allies aggressively pursue efforts in Congress on it continued yesterday as Aquino claimed through his spokesman that he maintains his position against efforts to amend the Constitution.
The fact that Aquino is not lifting a finger to order members of his Liberal Party (LP), of which Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other House members leading the effort are part, to back off from Chacha, however, speaks much of the origin of the current move to tinker with the Constitution. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the original position of Aquino remains despite his allies ramming the discussion on the Chacha proposals. “The latest update is that he maintains his position that there is no need to amend the economic provisions of the Charter,” Lacierda said, as the economy is doing very well without the Chacha. Lacierda said the national economy has been experiencing growth even in the absence of any alterations on the economic provisions of the fundamental law which was ratified in 1987 under the term of former President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent.
“If you look at the situation right now, our economy has grown better even without amending the Charter,” Lacierda said.
Belmonte made an effort to insulate Aquino from the House’s Chacha effots, saying in effect that it was his initiative to pursue amendments on the economic provisions of the Constitution.


ALSO: Half of 2015 budget likely lump sums

P1.37T UNKNOWN IN BUDGET PRIOR TO 2016 POLLS: Nearly half of the 2015 budget may end up as lump sum funds of President Aquino based on the piece-meal information that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has been giving out on the allocations for next year.
University of the Philippines professor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said during a presentation last Friday on the 2014 and 2015 budget that based on the DBM’s National Budget Memorandum 119, the government agencies will have budget ceilings of P488 billion for personal services expenditures and P743 billion for maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE), capital outlays (COs) and financial expenses (Finex) or a total of P1.23 trillion which compared to total obligation budget for 2014 leaves out P1.37 trillion unaccounted for. Where goes the more than half of the 2015 budget, to Special Purpose Funds (SPF)? How much is the SPF in 2015?, Briones posed the questions to participants in the forum. Briones said that since the country is facing many challenges, the most serious of which are poverty, climate change, health and education, and unemployment, the budget can be the most powerful instrument of government in responding to these problems. “It can be an instrument for the redistribution of income groups to fund services and create jobs for the poor. The budget can be used to provide education and health services, as well as training and capacity building and fund projects to create employment. The budget can be used to stabilize the economy and control inflation,” she said. He cited the need for the public to to ask questions on the analysis of the government on the performance of the economy, its policies, thrusts and priorities. The government should also be made accountable for not only what is explicitly stated but also the more implicit or what is not there, she added.


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Phl missing out on huge investments due to Charter restrictions’

MANILA, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Paolo Romero - The Constitution must be “nimble and responsive” to global developments so it can help in sustaining the country’s economy, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said yesterday.

Julian Payne, president of the Canadian chamber, told the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments that the Philippines has been missing out on huge investments because of restrictions on the entry of foreign capital in the country.

“Capital is extremely mobile, and the Philippines has not been getting its share,” Payne told members of the panel, chaired by Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano.

“Investors go where it is easier to invest, and the beauty of this legislation is that it will enable Filipinos to be responsive to realities of the 21st century,” he said.

The business leader was referring to House Resolution No. 1 authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. seeking to ease the restrictions on the economic provisions of the Constitution.

He said one of the global trade and economic developments that the country should take advantage of is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Under the resolution, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” would be included in various sections of Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports), and XVI (general provisions).

This means the constitutional restrictions will remain until Congress passes specific amendments, which are approved in a nationwide plebiscite.

Peter Wallace, chairman of the Wallace Business Forum, told the hearing that easing the restrictions would “get the attention of the world” and prove that the Philippines is serious about inviting foreign investors.

He said fewer economic restrictions would also allow transfer of technology, enhance managerial capacity, and allow the country greater access to the world market.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, president of the Centrist Democratic Party and a proponent of House Resolution No. 1, said TPP members Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam will have a combined Gross Domestic Product of $28 trillion and account for about a third of all world trade.

The lawmaker said South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan are also set to join the TPP.

John Forbes of the American Chamber of Commerce told lawmakers that to join the TPP, the Philippines must allow greater foreign participation in various sectors of the economy.

“If you’re not in it (TPP), you missed an opportunity,” Forbes said. “There is a global supply chain included and interconnected, and you cannot be outside this trading group.”

Inclusive growth

Rodriguez said the country needs economic Charter change (Cha-cha) to achieve “inclusive growth, or growth that the poor among our people can feel.”

In a television interview, Rodriguez said though the economy has expanded by more than seven percent a year under President Aquino, many economists are claiming that such expansion is largely “jobless growth that hasn’t trickled down to the poor.”

This means that the economy has not created enough jobs for people who are unemployed and underemployed, he said.

He said people would feel the benefits of growth through sufficient job and income opportunities, which would be created if there were more investments in the economy.

He added that he and other Cha-cha proponents believe that such investments would come in if restrictions in the Constitution on foreign ownership of land and certain businesses were lifted.

Rodriguez is supporting the proposal of Belmonte for the amendment of the Constitution to allow Congress to lift economic restrictions when needed.

Rodriguez has withdrawn his bill asking Congress to convene a constitutional convention to propose sweeping amendments, including changing the form of government from presidential with a bicameral legislature to parliamentary with a unicameral law-making body.

He said scores of business groups, including those composed of foreign businessmen, are supporting economic Cha-cha because of the belief that the economy could attain higher growth if restrictions were lifted.

He maintained that President Aquino is keeping an open mind on economic Cha-cha.

He recounted his recent meeting with Aquino, in which they discussed the constitutional amendment initiative of administration allies in the House.

He said he told the President that the economy could attain double-digit growth if foreign restrictions were scrapped.

He said Aquino “was listening intently.”

Militant party-list representatives have claimed that Malacañang is secretly supporting the Cha-cha push of its House allies.

But Belmonte, Rodriguez, Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, and other Cha-cha proponents denied that Aquino, who has publicly opposed Cha-cha, was behind his allies’ initiative.

In Bacolod City, Rep. Mercedes Alvarez said most House members support amendments to economic provisions in the Charter.

“Right now, the economic provisions in our Constitution are very rigid,” she said. “We want to insert the phrase ‘as otherwise provided by law’ in certain provisions of the Constitution,” she said. “Later, it is possible to come up with a law if there is a need to open up the economy and industry to foreign investors,” she said.

She cited an existing provision limiting foreign ownership of property to 40 percent. “Some foreigners are hesitant to invest because of that,” she added. – With Jess Diaz, Danny Dangcalan

FROM MANILA BULLETIN

Cha-cha not in PNoy’s radar by Genalyn D. Kabiling, Charissa M. Luci & Ben R. Rosario
February 21, 2014


PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO AND FINANCE SECRETARY CESAR PURISIMA

Manila, Philippines — Charter change (Cha-cha) remains the farthest thing in the mind of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

This was stressed by Presidential Communications Operations Herminio Coloma Jr. as he rejected allegations that the President is behind congressional moves to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

The President’s position is clear and firm. Charter change is not needed and not a priority, Coloma said.

That allegation has no basis, he said, reacting to reports that Aquino has given his consent to the Charter change drive in Congress.

At the House of Representatives, Cha-cha advocates said President Aquino will not “deceive” the people and will not in any way engage in double talk to push for economic amendments in the 1987 Constitution.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares had earlier said the administration allies in Congress would not insist on constitutional amendments without the President’s approval.

‘Long Con Game’

Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad readily agreed with the House opposition solon, describing the Charter change bid as a “long con game” which is an underworld term used to describe a swindle carried out in a protracted and painstaking manner but with enormous rewards.

“Mahabang confidence building game ito, matagal ang pagplano, unti- unti rin ang pag-implement pero napakalaki naman ng reward,” Tatad told reporters during the Usaping Balita News forum.

Reward, Tatad said, could be the lifting of the term limitations for the sitting president which at least two previous government administrations attempted to carryout but were total failures.

Colmenares voiced his suspicions as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., an ally of the President, continued to push for amendments to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses supposedly to fuel economic growth.

‘Utterly Unfair’

Belmonte branded as “utterly unfair” Colmenares’ allegations.

“The track record and integrity of the President will speak for itself. It is not in his style to deceive the people. We are still working to convince him (President Aquino) into supporting my initiative,” he said, denying that he was in agreement with President Aquino to push for economic Cha-cha.

But Tatad finds it incredulous that Belmonte, a key ally of the Aquino administration, would go against the wishes of President Aquino who continues to reject the attempt to amend the Charter that was framed and ratified during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino.

Tatad said the real motive behind the Charter change bid will unfold as soon as political survey results would indicate that the Liberal Party prospective candidate for president, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, will unlikely become a strong choice to win the presidential race in 2016.

President Aquino has repeatedly declared he is not convinced Charter change is needed to boost economic growth. Aquino said the country has managed to post strong growth in the past three years without tinkering with the Constitution.

Last Tuesday, Malacañang said the President has no intention to extend his term beyond 2016 via Charter change. Coloma said the President is actually counting down the days on how long he would stay in the Palace.

FROM THE DAILY TRIBUNE

Noy, Sonny Cha-cha paradox presses on Written by Tribune Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print 1 comment


NOY AQUINO AND SONNY BELMONTE

The oxymoron of President Aquino rejecting Charter change (Cha-cha) while his allies aggressively pursue efforts in Congress on it continued yesterday as Aquino claimed through his spokesman that he maintains his position against efforts to amend the Constitution.

The fact that Aquino is not lifting a finger to order members of his Liberal Party (LP), of which Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other House members leading the effort are part, to back off from Chacha, however, speaks much of the origin of the current move to tinker with the Constitution.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the original position of Aquino remains despite his allies ramming the discussion on the Chacha proposals.

“The latest update is that he maintains his position that there is no need to amend the economic provisions of the Charter,” Lacierda said, as the economy is doing very well without the Chacha.

Lacierda said the national economy has been experiencing growth even in the absence of any alterations on the economic provisions of the fundamental law which was ratified in 1987 under the term of former President Corazon Aquino, mother of the incumbent.

“If you look at the situation right now, our economy has grown better even without amending the Charter,” Lacierda said.

Belmonte made an effort to insulate Aquino from the House’s Chacha effots, saying in effect that it was his initiative to pursue amendments on the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“That is utterly unfair. The track record and integrity of the President will speak for itself. It is not in his style to deceive the people,” Belmonte said yesterday.

Belmonte explained that he and the supporters of his Chacha bid are still making an effort to convince Aquino to back the effort.

Leftist groups led by Bayan Muna accused President Aquino of orchestrating the Chacha move.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., vice chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, agreed with Belmonte.

“Filipinos believe in the sincerity in the words of our President. He does not engage in double talk. The imputation that the President gave his silent blessings to Charter change is uncalled for,” Barzaga said.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas, a senior member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, urged the Makabayan bloc to stop speculating.

“The allegations that (Aquino) gave his silent blessings to Chacha are obviously and purely speculations and conjectures,” Fariñas said in a text message.

Aquino has remained steadfast in his opposition to Chacha but Belmonte and those who support his move are hoping that the president could have a change of heart if he only listens to the proponents.

At the same time, Belmonte, Barzaga and Fariñas urged Rep. Neri Colmenares to stop his baseless accusations that the committee is railroading the proceedings because he was given all the chances to question the resource persons invited in the two days marathon hearings.

“Imagine six guys trying to run the Chamber and accused us of railroading if their requests are denied,” Belmonte said.

Barzaga said “it is certainly unfair to state that the committee on constitutional amendments is railroading the process regarding Charter change.”

“We are duly complying with the constitutional mandate regarding the procedure on Charter change. We are observing the rules of the House, most especially Rule 20. Resource persons with opposing views have been invited and were permitted to speak on their respective views. The members of the Makabayan block most especially Rep. Colmenares have been given all the opportunities to interpellate all resource persons. Under these circumstances, I cannot understand that they are still claiming railroading of the proceedings,” Barzaga pointed out.

Fariñas said the committee invited many resource persons to ensure that advocates and the oppositors are given the chance to air their side.

“How could the committee be accused of railroading the proceedings when it is precisely holding hearings on the matter with all sides being given the opportunity to be heard?” Fariñas asked.

Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, the panel chairman, said her committee will continue to conduct public hearings next week and may vote on Belmonte’s resolution.

“It depends. We could come to a vote. (We are) making sure proceedings go well,” Garcia-Albano said. “We are listening to their concerns. We invited diverse group of resource persons. There is no such intention to railroad. If that is the impression, it is unfortunate but there is no intent.”

The Speaker reiterated that he would be able to get the support of three-fourths or 217 out of the 289 members of the House of Representatives.

Lacierda reiterated what Aquino has been saying comparing the economic performance of Asian powerhouse China whose economy is booming without the need to change its Charter.

“The President has always cited the example of China as a country where land is not open to foreign nationals and yet experienced growth,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the moves of Aquino’s political allies at the House of Representatives is not necessarily the same with Aquino’s view and that the efforts will not influence his original position.

“The President is firm. I can assure you, notwithstanding the endorsement of Speaker Belmonte towards amending the Charter on the economic provisions,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said Aquino has not hid anything in his desire on the issues of the constitution. “The President has always been very transparent about his position on Charter change.”

Half of 2015 budget likely lump sums Written by Tribune Sunday, 23 February 2014

P1.37T UNKNOWN IN BUDGET PRIOR TO 2016 POLLS


University of the Philippines professor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones

Nearly half of the 2015 budget may end up as lump sum funds of President Aquino based on the piece-meal information that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has been giving out on the allocations for next year.

University of the Philippines professor and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said during a presentation last Friday on the 2014 and 2015 budget that based on the DBM’s National Budget Memorandum 119, the government agencies will have budget ceilings of P488 billion for personal services expenditures and P743 billion for maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE), capital outlays (COs) and financial expenses (Finex) or a total of P1.23 trillion which compared to total obligation budget for 2014 leaves out P1.37 trillion unaccounted for.

Where goes the more than half of the 2015 budget, to Special Purpose Funds (SPF)? How much is the SPF in 2015?, Briones posed the questions to participants in the forum.

Briones said that since the country is facing many challenges, the most serious of which are poverty, climate change, health and education, and unemployment, the budget can be the most powerful instrument of government in responding to these problems.

“It can be an instrument for the redistribution of income groups to fund services and create jobs for the poor.

The budget can be used to provide education and health services, as well as training and capacity building and fund projects to create employment. The budget can be used to stabilize the economy and control inflation,” she said.

He cited the need for the public to to ask questions on the analysis of the government on the performance of the economy, its policies, thrusts and priorities.

The government should also be made accountable for not only what is explicitly stated but also the more implicit or what is not there, she added.

There is a need to engage the Executive on longstanding issues on citizens participation, special purpose funds, etc. which is a need to demand accountability from the government, she added.

Briones, who is also lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines (SWP) added that the 2014 budget has the same features as earlier budgets, except on the matter of PDAF and the lump sums.

“Even as the PDAF has been officially declared unconstitutional, the public is not fully convinced that it has been totally excised. This four letter word is nowhere to be seen in the 2014 budget but the lump sums of the Executive are still in place,” she added.

The disputed PDAF was originally proposed for P25 billion and it was part of the P310 billion SPF of the Executive. While the PDAF has either been realigned or removed, the SPF under the control of the Executive have been retained totaling P282.57 billion, she added.

She said that among the daunting problem facing the current administration is governance.

“Citizens are fed by the media with a daily diet of scandals and new evidences of massive corruption. The total national expenditure program is P2.264 trillion while total programmed appropriations is P1.468 trillion.

“Unprogrammed funds amount to P139 billion. It cannot be said that the government does not have sufficient funds. The challenges of good governance remain formidable,” she said.

She said while the Aquino administration claimed many reforms have been introduced in the budget system, Aquino’s lump sum remained resilient to reforms.

“The entire country was euphoric about the Supreme Court decision on congressional pork, or PDAF. Citizens are looking forward to its decision on the Development Acceleration Program. DBM has just announced its GAA as Release Document System. Any attempt at reform must be given a chance to work,” she added.

Unfortunately, the lump sums will not be covered by this new system, precisely because lumps don’t have details, Briones said.

Thus, the very problem that is the object of citizens’ demands is not covered by this newest reform, she said.

In the meantime, poverty continues to rise, along with unemployment and all the other social ills even as the GDP likewise continues to rise, she added.

In a related article on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which supposedly pooled savings from the yearly budget, Briones’ SWP said the SC decision on the controversial program isn’t out yet, but the position taken by many individuals and organizations is already clear that the DAP is unconstitutional.

“If there was anything good from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s “why-just-me” tirade, which was the first the public even knew about the DAP, we can say that he was the proverbial child with a proverbial snow globe. He shook it and now we’re in flurry of things, from issues of constitutionality to corruption in the inner workings of public finance. His privilege speech was historical, in a way,” SWP said.

According to Estrada, amounts of from P50 million to P100 million were given to some Senators with the intention to influence the decision concerning the impeachment case of the then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

“He was eventually impeached, and those who voted for his conviction allegedly got “love gifts” or “thank you’s” from the Executive in the form of additional funding that was then later revealed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as DAP. The totality of DAP is estimated at around P137 billion,” it stated.

The money was then supposedly used to fund projects recommended by the Senators, essentially making it a form of Legislative Pork Barrel, SWP said.

While it wasn’t exactly the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, the fancy legal name we have for Legislative pork, DAP basically worked the same way, it added.

Legislators played a hand in tasks they weren’t supposed to; that is, the discretionary and Executive task of directing the flow of money. The amounts given to Legislators from DAP was, in essence, pork barrel, the group said.

“PDAF is now dead. Well, at least we probably won’t call pork “PDAF” anymore. There are still huge lump sums in the 2014 budget; huge amounts under Executive control that have no details or appropriation cover. These, we still have to look out for,” it added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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