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MANILA, Philippines - The leaders of the two chambers of Congress on Monday urged lawmakers to begin the work of reviewing and amending the economic provisions of the Constitution.
"We believe that is needed by the country. We must adopt a flexible (economic) policy than a very rigid one," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in an interview after suspending Monday's session.
He added that the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives have agreed not to tinker with the other provisions of the Constitution, particularly the extension of terms of elective officials.
“It will not happen because the two House agreed and we will pass the resolution. You will see whether we are going to tinker with other provisions of the Constitution,” he said.
However, Vice President Jejomar Binay wants the amendments to the Constitution to include the extension of the terms of local government officials.
“We should extend the terms of the local government units. Masyadong maikli ang tatlong taon (Three years is too short) because the continuity of governance is very important for every local executives,” Binay said.
Enrile did not give a time frame for tackling Charter change but he said he and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will seek an audience with President Benigno Aquino III to discuss the matter.
Belmonte, on the other hand, said in his speech to open the House’s third regular session: “It is high time that we revisit the economic provisions of the Constitution which, to my mind, restrict our economic progress and growth.”
“Countries are like living creatures. They have to adapt to changing conditions to survive and develop,” Belmonte said. “We are witnessing rapid and radical developments in digital and information technology. We cannot afford to lag far behind. Dramatic economic, political, and social upheavals all over the world have altered and redefined territorial boundaries and diplomatic relations.”
“I am not proposing to change the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution overnight,” he added. “What I am suggesting is for us to take the first step towards relaxing the restrictive economic provisions of our Constitution to allow Congress to enact the laws that would define foreign participation and nationality requirements in strategic sectors of our economy.”
To critics of amending the economic provisions, Belmonte said, they “will have all the time and opportunity to convince Congress otherwise.”