By Romina Cabrera, February 22, 2020; The Philippine Star

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2020/02/22/1995121/strengthen-public-institutions-first-foreign-ownership

Manila, Philippines — Public institutions have to be strengthened first before any constitutional amendment to open up the country’s economy to foreign ownership should be considered, political analysts said.

Speaking with One News’ “The Chiefs”, Edmund Tayao of the Ateneo School of Government said there could be a problem regulating foreign companies if they are given free rein once economic limitations are lifted.

“We have weak public institutions. Before you open up, you have to make sure your institutions can rein in these foreign companies coming in. Our institutions are weak, regulations are hard,” he said.

He noted that regulatory bodies should be ready if the country wants to bring in more foreign players to different industries.

Prof. Ranjit Rye from the University of the Philippines agreed, saying regulatory institutions and legal frameworks in the country should be revisited and revised before the country opens its doors to full foreign ownership.

He noted that these amendments, currently being tackled by Congress, are a hot topic of debate. Some sectors argue that relaxing restrictions will help spur foreign investments in industries that are underdeveloped, while others say the country stands to lose economic sovereignty if this pushes through.

Still, Rye noted that there is more consensus in terms of amendments to economic provisions of the Constitution than political reforms brought before Congress.

He added that there is also greater consensus in Congress in general today, given the majority of administration allies in office.

Significant constitutional amendments are “very possible now” with the numbers in both chambers of Congress, Rye said.

Tayao said that while the 1987 Constitution contains “very good principles,” it was designed to fail because of the rigidity of the framework itself.

“As it is, it would be hard to change this Constitution. Already enough reason for you to actually review and amend it,” he added.

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