Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian urged Congress to focus on revising the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution rather than amending the charter to extend the President’s term limits, warning the latter can hurt the country’s opportunity for economic growth.
Some allies of the President have called for charter amendments to remove current limits on the chief executive’s tenure, saying there is a need to continue his reforms.
The House majority leader has reportedly rebuffed such calls as it will dampen ongoing efforts to ease constitutional restrictions in foreign ownership in some industries, as people may become skeptical about the resolution proposing the said amendments.
This is crucial as revisions on the economic provisions are seen to help the country attract investments, which in turn will generate jobs.
Gatchalian noted that for the Philippines to take advantage of the economic momentum, the government must be clear on its priorities.
“What we have now is a golden but narrow window of opportunity. The whole government must concentrate on in accelerating its efforts for economic growth and poverty reduction, and spend less time on politicking,” said Gatchalian, a Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC stalwart who is also a vice chair on the House committee on Metro Manila development.
“Clearly, if the President’s allies will continue pushing for an extension of his term, it will derail efforts to attract foreign investments and will create much-needed jobs, and ultimately damage the country’s economic prospects,” Gatchalian added.
The lawmaker supports amending economic provisions but opposes lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of land, saying this will likely increase the conversion of agricultural lands to industrial and put farmers out of work.
Gatchalian also called on his fellow public servants to heed the World Bank’s recommended tax reforms, such as rationalizing fiscal incentives, which seeks to remove tax- and duty-free perks enjoyed by some industries, and increasing excise taxes on petroleum products.
“Increased revenues through these reforms, in turn, will fund higher public investments in infrastructure, health, and education,” said Gatchalian.
“We must not dilly-dally and instead prioritize passing economic measures that will matter to the people, especially the poorest who depend on the government’s delivery of social services,” he said.
The World Bank recently downgraded the country’s growth forecast this year to 6.4% from 6.6%. This, given the economy’s less-than-stellar performance in the first quarter due to factors such as the effects of Typhoon Yolanda and lower government spending in the previous quarter. (Monica Cantilero)