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Amend retail trade liberalization law instead of Constitution —Drilon

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday sought the amendment of the Retail Trade Liberalization Act instead of opening up the 1987 Constitution to change its "restrictive" economic provisions.

“The immediate passage of this law will remove the steam that powers the Cha-cha (Charter change) train in the House of Representatives,” Drilon said as he interpellated on Senate Bill 1840, proposing amendments to RA 8762 or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

The measure, which Drilon principally authors, seeks to further relax foreign restrictions by removing investment categories and setting an across-the-board minimum paid up capital investment equivalent of US$300,000 in Philippine peso.

According to Drilon, by simply amending the Foreign Investments Act, further relaxing retail trade restrictions, and amending the public service law, the Philippines will already be able to generate up to $39 billion in foreign direct investment a year.

“We are all bombarded with questions about the so-called economic charter change. Well, we do not need to be bothered by such talks because we can immediately better the investment climate,” he added.

The House plenary is currently deliberating Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 which inserts the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to the constitutional provisions on national economy and patrimony; education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports; and on general provisions to give Congress flexibility to enact laws that would free up the economy to foreign investors.

But Drilon said addressing the economic slowdown needs a concrete solution, and this is "through the enactment of various economic measures such as the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Public Service Act."

Currently, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act provides enterprises with a paid-up capital below US$2.5 million in peso equivalent are reserved exclusively for Filipino citizens and corporations wholly owned by Filipino citizens.

Drilon's bill seeks to remove the investment categories and set a minimum paid up capital investment equivalent of US$300,000 in Philippine peso for foreign retailers.

The amendment to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act is among the 11 priority measures identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.—LDF, GMA News