House wants Cha-cha to deal with financial crisis


By Delon Porcalla
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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The US financial crisis has given the administration-dominated Philippine House of Representatives another argument to amend the 21-year-old Constitution by way of giving Americans and Filipino migrants the opportunity to transfer their investments here.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, an ally of President Arroyo in the ruling Lakas-CMD party, said now is the best time to “lift equity restrictions” on the prohibitive 60-40 constitutional provision that favors only local businessmen.

“Now is the best opportunity for the government to encourage US-based Filipinos to invest their dollar-denominated savings in Philippine industries like mining and agriculture,” Nograles said in a statement.

“The trend in the global money market is focused on the more stable gold and other mineral-based investments,” he said in the wake of the current global financial turmoil spawned by the US financial crisis.

The House resolution Nograles authored is now supported by 160 of the 240 congressmen, which may then allow the government to amend the restrictive provision, eventually allowing foreign investments like those from the troubled American market, to come in.

The Arroyo government should take advantage of the situation because US investors are now “relocating to safer grounds.” The Speaker said this is one condition where the Philippines can “convert the US crisis (in)to an opportunity.”

Nograles proposed that the government launch an aggressive campaign to bring in more investments to the Philippines, as US investors are either holding back assets or are re-channeling them to safer grounds.

“Our strong economic fundamentals should be our best selling point in offering refuge to relocating American investments. However, we cannot maximize our potential as an attractive destination because of our equity restrictions,” he said.

Nograles added: “Our economic managers should be able to take the crisis as an opportunity to mobilize the country’s sleeping potentials and not just remain in the defensive posture.

“Overseas Filipinos, especially those working and living in the United States, should look at their home country as the best haven for their savings that could be transformed into active investments,” he stressed.

Nograles surmised that even a minimum of $1,000 investment for every US-based Filipino migrant “would be substantial to fuel the country’s economic engine.”

The Speaker noted that Mindanao is just waiting to be tapped for its rich and vast reservoir of natural resources, including gold and other precious metals, aside from its vast potentials in food production.

According to Nograles, his proposed summit can be used as a vehicle to craft a concrete strategy to attract investments from US-based Filipino migrants and formulate measures that will strengthen investor confidence in the Philippine economy.

He said he is willing to put his job on the line when it comes to Charter change. “In my watch, I think I will bite the bullet,” he told members of the Manila Overseas Press Club early last month.

Nograles assured the MOPC that the 240 members of the House will discuss the issue “in public in a transparent manner, with no surprises, with cards on the table… Let’s see how it goes.”

Members of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) in the House are not abandoning efforts for Charter change, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Puno, also Kampi chairman, said he and his partymates will continuously push for Cha-cha, but these moves will focus on amendments affecting economic reforms in the country.

Puno highlighted the need for the country to amend constitutional provisions on restrictions on corporate and property ownership.– With Christina Mendez (PStar)

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