DAYUHAN

By N. Mark Castro

 

The House of Representatives’ committee on constitutional amendments has set a hearing on Tuesday to amend the 1987 Constitution which militant solon Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano described as “a mad rush for the global auction of the country’s patrimony” to foreign investors. Mariano said the scheduled hearing on Tuesday “revealed President Aquino’s posturing about Charter change (Cha-cha).”

“Why schedule the debates when the Filipino people are still mired in floods and Congress is about to adjourn by next week? This clearly shows that the administration is in a mad rush to auction off our national patrimony,” said Mariano, who also chairs the the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).“Obviously, the committee’s move is in compliance with the Aquino administration’s party whip to his allies to fast-track moves to amend the Charter and pave the way for the full control and monopoly of foreign big businesses on lands, utilities and services,” the solon added. –

First of all, the 1987 Constitution — despite its best intentions — is due for major amendment as it was haphazardly done to provide legitimacy to our fledgling government. Over two decades have passed and even the foremost restriction on the re-election of an incumbent president had been circumvented due to the lack of a clear and distinctive directives. This would be a great opportunity to address such issue, particularly when the incumbent president has no political gain if ever such amendment is passed. We were ambivalent during Ramos’ time and we were most certainly afraid during Erap’s and Arroyo’s time.

Despite the president’s on-and-off again popularity ratings, he still miraculously enjoys the support of the majority, which is a politically good springboard to stimulate his economic agenda. It is a political move. It is an economic move. From a political perspective, why not? From an economic perspective, the Asian neighbors are already benefitting from it.

“Why schedule the debates when the Filipino people are still mired in floods and Congress is about to adjourn by next week? This clearly shows that the administration is in a mad rush to auction off our national patrimony,” said Mariano, who also chairs the the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).“Obviously, the committee’s move is in compliance with the Aquino administration’s party whip to his allies to fast-track moves to amend the Charter and pave the way for the full control and monopoly of foreign big businesses on lands, utilities and services,” the solon added.

The schedule, perhaps, leaves much to be desired, granted; and with Congress due for adjournment, indeed, a much preferred schedule can be arranged. But to jump right away to the projections of “auctioning off national patrimony” is nothing short of sensationalism in itself. That the speaker himself is from a militant group shows the depth of naivete of a group that has shown nothing over the years except its irrelevance to the real growth of the country. That it is even further expanded to the “full control and monopoly of foreign big business on lands, utilities and services,” further pronounces the speaker’s ignorance.

You do not need the charter amendment in order to take full control and monopoly on lands, utilities and services.

Nestle, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Unilever, P&G have existed in the country since even the speaker was in short pants and such multinational companies never required the charter amendment.

Metro Pacific Group, a humongous entity locally incorpated and pretending to be a local company, is currently facing a decision from the Supreme Court on its actual shareholders. Metro Pacific Group — even without the charter amendment — already dominates to the point of monopoly industries such as telecommunications (Smart, PLDT, Sun, among others), healthcare (Makati Medical Center, Davao General Hospital, among others), utilities (Meralco, among others), infrastructure (tollways, among others), mining (Philex, among others), properties (The Fort, among others), media (TV5, among others) energy, to name a few.

Metro Pacific is owned by the First Pacific Group, which is owned by Anthoni Salim of Indonesia.

Globe Telecommunications is owned by SingTel.

Liberty is owned by Qatar Telecommunications.

Hence, there goes the premise of using charter amendment as an opportunity to sell “national patrimony” on “lands, utilities and services.

Insofar as House Concurrent Resolution No. 10 is concerned, mainly, the focus on: (a) The removal of the 60 to 40 percent equity limitation on foreign investors; (b) Removing the control and management exclusively by Filipinos in companies with foreign equities; (c) Expanding the role of foreign investors in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources; (d) Allowing foreign ownership of industrial lands;

Shell, Caltex, Chevron, among others, have already been in the country for the longest time and have shown international standards of best practice in all areas considered: security of employment, compliance on environmental regulations, compliance on taxation, among others. Compared to local operators that have shown nothing but a propensity for quick bucks through corruption, then perhaps it’s best to let foreign investors to do their job and pay the country.

Indonesia, which is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, despite corruption, has allowed for foreign investments to come in yet such companies are carefully audited, monitored, and regulated.

Singapore — with NO NATURAL RESOURCES TO SPEAK OF — has become the international hub of Asia Pacific by letting foreign investments to come in. No one among the Asean neighbors can suspect the regulatory protocols of Singapore, which is often described as a “FINE” City.

Thailand — despite its turbulent political situation — has remained economically resilent because of direct foreign investment. Not a single politician complains even if foreign dignitaries report that a major part of its tourism is derived from the sex industry.

Malaysia — a highly nationalistic country and with religion pervading its government policies — likewise opened its doors to foreign investment yet its country has shown its stable sovereignty while enjoying the financial benefits.

Where is the Philippines thus far?

(e) Liberalizing media by allowing foreign investments in media;

If the current tabloid journalism in the country is the barometer, then perhaps, much like in other Asian countries, it is time that doors be opened to credible news agencies such as BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, ABC, CNA, among others. The problem is not with these foreign media. The problem is the capability of the local media.

(f) Liberalizing the practice of profession in accordance with the principle of reciprocity;

Are we not one of the largest exporters of human resources to the world? Is our country not dependent on the remittance of our OFWs? Yet we would refuse others for the opportunity that is provided unto us?

(g) Liberalizing investments in educational institutions by allowing foreign investments in tertiary education.

Even our top educational institutions: UP, Ateneo, La Salle, among others, have dropped from the regional rankings. Our current educational system produces more telephone operators and nurses more than scientists and mathematicians. If a foreign investor would stimulate other educational disciplines in the country, then so be it. AMA, which used to be the largest computer-education school in the country, is now one of the largest nursing schools in the country. And we expect to produce the next Steve Jobs?

(h) Extending the 25 years+25 years land lease agreement.

It’s a lease not ownership.

All the arguments raised above depend largely on government’s credibility to regulate the entry of foreign investments without depriving the country of such opportunity. If government officials — and politicians — continue to be as corrupt as we are today, then foreign investment is not to blame.

“Amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, particularly the removal of restrictions on 100 percent foreign ownership of lands, media and public utilities, are obviously linked to Aquino’s grand design to lure foreign investments,”

So what of it?

As it is, compared to our regional neighbors, the registry of foreign investors in the country is at a bottom level. We do not need to show the door to foreign investors. They are not coming anyway.

We have given such opportunity to our countrymen who have done nothing but to continue to abuse the workforce of the country, whether laborers or executives. After all, nobody screws you better than your own kind.

Further, the KMP is not the only workforce of the country. They are not the only abused workers by local investors in the country.

I could care less whether or not foreign investors flock to the country. Read the news. Look at our own economic tables. Foreign investors did not do that. We did. And the worse part is, the very arguments raised by the speaker is nothing but a sensational projection on such a militant stance yet one which has no legal or actual basis to stand on.

Debate on the merits of the issue and not on some sophomoric posturings of a militant communist ideology where even Russia and China have long since abandoned insofar as economic policies are concerned.

China.

Remember that communist country?

Tell me if it still is.

About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the chief political communications strategist for PT AsiaLeads, a political and communications policy-making body based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also the Executive Director at the Southeast Asia Consulting Group, an investment advisory company assisting clients roll out their presence for the ASEAN Economic Integration in partnership with government. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on July 28, 2012, in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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