MANILA — Aside from questioning the timing of the proposed economic Charter change (Cha-cha), Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also thumbed down what he called a rider provision in the so-called economic Cha-cha that will allow foreigners to own land in the Philippines.
“Although they call it economic provisions, there is one rider that it’s not necessarily connected to economic provisions. They want to open up land ownership to foreigners. Why is it there?” Pimentel said in an interview with ANC on Monday.
Pimentel said the rider provision will only add to controversy and resistance from the public. “I think this will result in more opposition to the call for the Cha-cha right now. Bakit nasisingit yang land ownership na iyan,” Pimentel said.
In a separate statement, Pimentel, a former Senate President, and 1990 bar topnotcher, said Section 7 of Article XII of the Constitution states that “Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”
Pimentel warned that Cha-cha will get rid of this constitutional provision, saying that “land ownership is sacred and a very personal issue to many Filipinos.”
Pimentel, a stalwart and chairman of the original PDP Laban, said his party has long been advocating for Cha-cha to change the country’s system of governance from presidential to federalism. However, his party acknowledges that the time is not yet ripe for the Philippines to shift to federalism.
“Mahirap ang buhay ngayon. We have domestic problems. The world has gotten so complicated, not only in trading but also in the politics of the world, especially these geo-political issues. Cha-cha will really eat up our time. This will refocus our attention from more pressing issues,” Pimentel said.
The Senate’s chief fiscalizer said proponents of Cha-cha should not blame the Constitution for the rising poverty and decline in foreign direct investments.
“The poverty that we see all around us was not caused by the Constitution. This has been caused by unfair policies,” Pimentel said, saying the inefficiency of the country’s justice system and the high cost of energy are what are keeping foreign investors away.
“What is important is number one, our energy cost. Number two, is our justice system. Our system must be efficient and trustworthy,” Pimentel stressed as he echoed the issues raised by the business sector about the high electricity rates in the Philippines as compared with other Southeast Asian countries.
Citing the statement made by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Pimentel said that electricity rates for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors in the Philippines have been significantly higher from between 25% to as high as 87% than its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors, namely Malaysia (87.5%), Indonesia (87.5%), Vietnam (50%) and Thailand (36%).
Answering a hypothetical question about whether he would vote for Cha-cha if and when the plenary decides, Pimentel said he would vote for constitutional assembly (con-ass) as a mode.
“If we are serious in amending the Constitution, the most practical manner would be con-ass,” Pimentel said, but he emphasized that the Senate and the House of Representatives should be voting separately. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)