During the weekly forum of THE AGENDA at Club Filipino on Friday March 15, an economist and a lawmaker expressed their different views on amending the 1987 Constitution. The debate over amending the 1987 Constitution in the Philippines, particularly regarding the restrictions on foreign direct investments (FDI), has sparked differing viewpoints from key figures in economics and politics.

Dr. Calixto “Tito” Chikiamco, President of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, has been vocal about the need to remove these restrictions, arguing that they have hindered the country’s economic growth. He emphasizes that the Philippines stands out as the only country with such stringent provisions, which he believes have contributed to its sluggish FDI performance compared to neighboring nations like Vietnam and Thailand. Chikiamco sees the removal of these restrictions as essential for economic progress, suggesting that allowing foreign investments, particularly in sectors like media and education, could benefit the country.

However, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, also President of the Liberal Party, holds a contrasting view. He prioritizes addressing existing issues such as corruption, policy unpredictability, and infrastructure deficiencies before considering constitutional amendments. Lagman questions the efficacy of liberalizing big retail investments and warns against the potential negative impact on Filipino citizens, particularly in essential sectors like education and public utilities. He advocates for maintaining Filipino control over critical industries to ensure accessibility and affordability for all citizens.

The discussion also touches on the process of amending the constitution. Lagman emphasizes the importance of thorough deliberation and considers legislative action sufficient to address restrictive FDI limitations. He points out that foreign investment shares in the retail trade have remained minimal despite previous liberalization efforts, suggesting a need for a more comprehensive approach to economic development.

The debate underscores broader concerns about the direction of economic policy and governance in the Philippines, with stakeholders weighing the potential benefits of liberalization against the need to safeguard national interests and ensure equitable development. As the discourse continues, the future of constitutional amendments and economic policies remains uncertain, subject to further deliberation and political dynamics.

Foreign restrictions hamper economy, economist says