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House lawmakers may start Charter change debates by February

CONGRESSMEN could start debates on proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution next month, according to the head of the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments.

“We still have one to two hearings in the committee and we will come up with the committee report, which will exclusively deal with the economic provisions,” Party-list Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr. told a news briefing on Wednesday.

Lawmakers could discuss the changes in plenary as early as the first week of February, he added. His committee will continue hearings on the matter on Tuesday.

Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco wants to ease foreign ownership restrictions in the Charter to boost foreign direct investments.

Some lawmakers want to insert the clause “unless otherwise provided by law” in parts of the Constitution that limit foreign ownership in certain Philippine industries. This will allow Congress to pass a law later relaxing ownership limits.

Mr. Garbin said the Charter must be amended before general elections next year.

“It is the right time,” he said of Charter change, rejecting calls for the government to focus on its pandemic response instead. “We want to send a signal that we are now open and that the restrictive policies will be lifted.” — Gillian M. Cortez

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