By Filane Mikee Cervantes

LIBERALIZATION. Palawan Representative Jose Alvarez discusses call to amend economic provision of the Constitution in a press conference at the House of Representatives on Wednesday (Feb. 14, 2024). He said the recent liberalization laws passed by Congress are not enough to attract foreign investments. (Screengrab)

MANILA – A lawmaker on Wednesday said the recent liberalization laws passed by Congress are not enough to attract foreign investments.

In a press conference, Palawan Representative Jose Alvarez said foreign ownership restrictions in the Constitution have discouraged would-be foreign investors despite the passage of the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act.

“Yung mga napasang batas, opening-up the economy, hindi pa sapat (The laws that were enacted to open up the economy are not enough),” he said.

Alvarez disclosed that the Korean ambassador to Manila has told him that out of 343 Korean investors, only three decided to locate in the Philippines, adding that 340 went to Vietnam.

Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. of Aklan, meanwhile, noted that Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand have changed their Constitution so “many times” to attract foreign capital.

“They changed their Constitution to reflect the global changing world. We base our assumption that if we open up the discussion on the Constitution, we’d break up our society. That is completely untrue,” Haresco said.

Haresco stressed the need to “open up” the Constitution for review to ensure that the country does not end up becoming a laggard in Asia.

The House, he said, is open to a “healthy discussion” with lawmakers from the upper chamber regarding amending the Constitution.

In a roundtable forum on the impact of regulatory barriers on foreign direct investments organized by the House of Representatives, former finance secretary Gary Teves said the Philippines has the most foreign equity ownership restrictions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

“We are the most restrictive in ASEAN and Vietnam, which has made substantial liberalization, is the least restrictive. We are No. 3 globally,” Teves told the forum.

Teves said there are several economic restrictions in the Constitution, including agriculture, mining, construction, transport, media, and telecommunications.

“Remove those from the Constitution. We are the only country in ASEAN and perhaps in the entire world with those restrictions in the Constitution,” he said. (PNA)