February 24, 2024

Salceda: PBBM treats Charter reform as ‘urgent and of highest nat’l interest’

FOR President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., introducing economic Charter amendments is “urgent and of the highest national interest.”

That’s according to Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, who said the President respects the present Constitution drafted during the time of the late President Cory Aquino and has consciously avoided commenting on it even during the election campaign.

“The president’s main governing theme is unity, so he is very careful about public perception and anything that has to do with EDSA ’86, especially its articulation of the Constitution. He is careful not to be perceived as dismantling the 1987 Constitution as he has been careful about all other vestiges of the ’86 revolution,” he told a news conference. 

“So, for the president to come out in support of the Charter change despite his usual reservation on such matters, clearly shows that he sees this as urgent and of the highest national interest. This is the first time that he has deviated from that position. If you look back since he ascended, or during the campaign, hindi po ito naging issue nuong 2022 election,” he said.

Salceda, one of the resident economists of the House, said while Congress has amended certain laws, the changes realized the flow of investments, the changes were insufficient to attract foreign investors because of restrictions in the Constitution. 

“I have repeatedly emphasized that if foreigners cannot own or have a more secure tenure over land, they will be less willing to invest heavily on capital-intensive sectors,” he added.

Salceda pointed out that he expects vigorous debates on the issue of land ownership.

“But, my personal view as an economist is that we need to open up land to some form of foreign ownership. Our most capital-starved sector is agriculture. In 2022, it accounted for just P1.3 billion in approved foreign investments, out of a total of P242 billion in approved foreign investments during the same year,” he stressed.

Asked if the President wanted a timeline for the Senate to approve Charter reform, Salceda, “I cannot speak for the President, but I can speak of his style based on my experience.”

He recalled that during the deliberations on the then proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), the President and the House gave him, as head of the technical working group, “unlimited leeway to listen to stakeholders and to institute safeguards and refinements to the measure.” 

“The President also allowed vigorous debate on the matter and did not weigh in on the details, just on the principle and the schedule. So, I think the style will be the same here. He will encourage vigorous debate on the details, but will strongly support the principle of economic amendments as well as the timeline for getting it done,” he said.