NEDA, COMELEC: Con-ass to cost taxpayers less money, time

NEDA, COMELEC: Con-ass to cost taxpayers less money, time

MANILA — Amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to allow more foreign direct investments will cost taxpayers fewer funds and time if done through a constituent assembly as compared to a constitutional convention, officials of the National Economic and Development Authority and Commission on Elections said Thursday.

Lawyer Reverie Pure Sapaen, director of governance staff of NEDA, told Sen. Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes in Baguio City that the estimated cost of Con-Ass would be P46 million if done simultaneously with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls in October.

Sapaen said this is if the plebiscite stemming from Con-Ass would be held simultaneously with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October. If the plebiscite would be held separately, it may cost P13.9 billion.

In contrast, she said a constitutional convention may cost a whopping P15 billion if held simultaneously with the barangay/SK elections; and P28.5 billion if held separately.

Of the P15 billion for Con-Con, she said P805 million is the estimated cost for allowances, emoluments, and accommodations of Con-Con delegates.

“Sa inyong bilang sa Comelec mas makakatipid ba tayo kung sabay na (As far as Comelec, will we save taxpayers money if we hold the plebiscite simultaneously with the BKSE elections)?” Padilla asked Catherine Isip, Acting Director III of the Comelec Finance Services Department. She replied, “Yes Sir, makakatipid tayo (Yes Sir, we can have savings).”

For his part, Julius Torres, Comelec regional election director for CAR, said amending the Charter via Con-Con could be more complicated due to the number of processes involved.

He said they have to print 68 million ballots for Con-Con delegates, train teachers, and hold a massive information drive on the ballots for barangay, SK, and Con-Con delegates. “Medyo mas maproseso ang Con-Con the way I see it (There are more processes involved in Con-Con, the way I see it),” he said.

On the other hand, Padilla said that while the Senate and House may differ on the method of amending the Constitution’s economic provisions, they agree on the need to ease economic provisions to allow more foreign investments.

“Medyo dito sa dalawang bagay na ito naghihiwalay ang dalawa. Pero ang magandang balita po, parehas na gusto, nais na magkaroon ng amyenda sa Saligang Batas (The Senate and House may differ here but the good news is that both agree on the need to amend the Charter),” he said.

Meanwhile, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong agreed with the need to ease the economic provisions of the Charter, noting many provisions are outdated.

“Malaki ang aking paniniwala kailangan natin baguhin certain provisions ng ating Constitution dahil napakaluma nito. Outdated na (I believe we need to update certain provisions of our Constitution which are outdated),” he said.

Among the provisions that he said need updating are those on ownership of the land of foreign nationals, individuals, and entities; Financial capability to exploit our natural resources; and ownership of public utilities.

“Siguro open na rin natin ang ating mata at mindset. It’s about time we invite foreign companies mamuhunan to invest in our country (We must open our eyes and mindset. It’s about time we invite foreign companies to invest in our country),” he said.

Ebb Hinchliffe, Executive Director, of AmCham Philippines, said they have advocated for some kind of constitutional change to remove some restrictions. When asked by Padilla if they have to change the economic provisions, he said: “The short answer is yes.”

Former Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez stressed the need to eliminate barriers to unleash the country’s potential as it will facilitate the entry of more investments that will modernize our sectors. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)

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