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Joint foreign chambers laud both Houses of Congress for pushing Charter amendments

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The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) on Tuesday lauded both Houses of Congress -- the Senate and the House of Representatives -- for pushing the needed amendments in the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution that would enhance economic growth in the Philippines.

Hubert d'Aboville, president of the European Chamber, at the meeting of the leaders of the House of Representatives with the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Philippine Business Groups held at the Andaya Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, said that since their first meeting nine months ago, "quite some progress have been made in advancing legislations" that would result to economic growth.

"We are grateful, Mr. Speaker, that you are pushing amendments to certain provisions of the Constitution," said d'Aboville in his opening remarks.
He, however, said that while the Senate appears on the same course, "President (Benigno) Aquino (III) keeps on saying that this (amendments to economic provisions) is not on his priority list."

Despite this, d'Aboville said it is encouraging to note that more and more business groups in the Philippines are supporting the opening up of the economy.

Among the economic priority measures identified in their first meeting include the approval on third and final reading by the Lower Chamber of the Data Privacy Act of 2011, Lemon Law, Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act, Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, and Amendments to the Intellectual Property Code.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., for his part, said the meeting provides "a remarkable opportunity for strengthening our bonds of cooperation and solidarity toward the attainment of our common aspirations for further growth."

While the Philippines was spared by the weakening United States economy and the debt crisis in Europe, he said there is still a need to "accelerate social and economic reforms in the country, and pursue overall goals and targets with even greater vigor and determination."

Belmonte cited that over the last decade, the Philippines has transformed itself into a country with sustained structural current account surpluses and rapid reserve accumulation.

He said the country's gross international reserves expanded to a record US$ 69 billion as of end-June 2011 while its special deposit accounts with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reached US$ 1.5 trillion as of July of this year.

"This large stockpile of international reserves provides a healthy buffer against external shocks," he noted.

The country's global competitiveness also improved 10 notches -- from No. 85 to No. 75 out of the the 142 economies, he added.

Belmonte, however, said that these positive developments should provide no room for complacency.

As such, he said that both Houses of Congress, during its 1st Legislative Summit, have firmed up a common list of priority measures in order to fast-track its passage which include amendments on the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.

D'Aboville reminded the lawmakers that there is a need to fast-track the approval of these legislations as these might have effect in the upcoming 2013 elections.

By Lilybeth G. Ison/PIA9-ZBST





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