One of the “charter change” proposals of the House of Representatives and the Consultative Commission (ConCom) is the opening up of most of the Philippine economy to foreign investors. And unlike the other, more debated, proposals e.g. federalism or the parliamentary form of government, the proposal to open the economy to foreigners does not seem too controversial. It seems that the majority of Filipinos accept the need for additional investment funds from outside the country, and assume that foreigners are the only source of such funds. Even some progressive groups are trying to tiptoe around this issue because they are afraid of getting marginalized if they defend the 1987 Constitution’s “national patrimony” provisions too energetically.
I disagree with the proposal to drop the “national patrimony” provisions. In fact, I think we can even strengthen these.
I believe that what the Philippines needs is not the money from foreigners, but rather their technology and market access. There is enough money from rich Filipinos in the Philippines, as well as from Overseas Filipinos to fund most investment projects. Of course, if a foreign company wants to set up a large airplane assembly plant or something as big as that, perhaps this would be a bit beyond the capacity of local and overseas Filipinos; but this kind of project will be so rare that the government could be authorized to allow this kind of exceptional projects. What the country needs is a good system to tap Overseas Filipinos’ investment funds.
As for accessing foreign technology, this is still best done through licensing, franchising, joint ventures or management contracts.
And access to foreign markets are a matter of trade negotiations. This could be exchanged for market access to the Philippines on a reciprocal basis. This is different from opening sectors to foreign ownership.
At present, with the government is doing all it can to get foreign investments, it is relegating Overseas Filipinos to minor development roles. Filipinos abroad who have other passports are treated worse than “white” foreigners, when it comes to investment incentives. This should be corrected, and Overseas Filipinos should be treated the same way as Philippine-based Filipinos when it comes to the rules that govern their investments.