Business groups warn con-con to put off investors, yield high costs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 25) — Business groups on Friday urged Congress to reconsider the proposed constitutional convention to amend the 1987 Constitution, saying it would cost too much and could spook investors.

"We respectfully urge the Senate — and the House, if and when the deliberations progress — to consider these and other points raised by our colleagues in various sectors as you decide on this potentially disruptive proposal at a time when the country may be poised to regain its economic momentum," read the joint statement of Filipina CEO Circle, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Justice Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, Philippine Women's Economic Network, Inc., and Women Business Council Philippines.

The groups said they have long supported proposals to amend the charter's economic provisions that impede trade, investment, innovation, competition, and economic and job growth.

"However, recently enacted laws and regulations like amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investment Act, the passage of the Rice Trade Liberalization Act 1 and the Department of Energy circular allowing 100% foreign ownership in the renewable energy sector 2 have addressed many of these impediments," they argued.

"Investors look for stability when making investment decisions. The possibly lengthy and fractious process of amending the constitution may make investors take a wait and see attitude for an extended period of time and therefore derail the impact of the reforms," the groups added.

They also said funds set for the constitutional convention are better spent on pro-people programs in agriculture, transportation, and social services.

"For the low-end estimated cost of Php 14 billion, the government could instead double the spending on farm to market roads; increase by half the spending on irrigation or the national rice program; double the spending on school buildings; or almost double the spending on hospitals and health centers," the groups pointed out.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said the cost of the election of delegates could go as high as ₱28 billion if it would be conducted as a separate national election and national plebiscite. 

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said it would cost the government ₱9.5 billion if it would be held simultaneously with the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls in October. 

Last month, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said charter change was not a priority for his administration, adding that the government can bring in more investors even without constitutional amendments.