We May Become Slaves And Squatters In Our Own Country

While the public’s attention is being directed toward the debate over the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the House of Representatives has been fast-tracking a resolution to remove or render inutile provisions in the 1987 Constitution that protect national patrimony.

In an Interaksyon.com article dated May 27, 2015 written by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, it was reported that the House of Representatives has approved on second reading Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 (Proposing Amendments to Certain Economic Provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines Particularly on Articles XII, XIV and XVI), which was authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. This means that the proposed measure has hurdled the first plenary debate on the measure. It is one step away from being approved by the House of Representatives before being transmitted to the Senate.

The proposed measure is as dangerous as it is simple. It proposes to inset the clause “unless otherwise provided by law” to provisions protecting national patrimony, specifically Article II pertaining to the national territory, Article XII pertaining to the national economy and patrimony, and Article XVI or the general provisions of the 1987 Constitution. This gives Congress the power to sell out the country’s national patrimony.

Well, the (dis)honorable members of Congress are not known for selflessness and patriotism; they are more known for their propensity and skill at wheeling and dealing.

Even a cursory glance at the provisions that would be affected would reveal how much the Filipino people stands to lose while opening up a lot of economic opportunities, not for the Filipino people, but for Congressmen and multinational corporations.

1. Section 2, Art. XII on exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources

While Congress has already enacted laws to circumvent this provision to favor multinational companies in exchange for paltry royalty payments and taxes, if any – such as the Mining Act of 1995, which surrenders the country’s resources to foreign mining companies in the guise of Finance and Technical Assistance Agreements, and supposed public-private partnerships, such as that which dealt the natural gas reserves of Malampaya to Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron – totally rendering this ineffective would fast-track the sell out of the country’s resources.

2. Section 3, Art. XII on alienable lands on the public domain

3. Section 7, Art. XII on conveyance of private lands

Effectively removing these provisions would enable multinational corporations and financial investment houses to control the country’s lands and displace indigenous peoples and peasants. With this, we also might as well say goodbye to any semblance of land reform and expect more demolitions of urban poor communities.

These multinational corporations and financial investment houses would not necessarily make these lands productive; they could control it for speculation. This is already happening in areas where big foreign mining companies secured rights to explore and mine but opted to sell these concessions to other firms.

4. Section 10, Art. XII on reserved investments

5. Section 11, Art. XII on grant of franchises, certificates, or any other forms of authorization for the operation of public entity

Rendering these provisions ineffective would open up the whole economy for sale to multinational companies; no sector of the economy would be sacrosanct be it essential commodities, services and utilities for the Filipino people or not. The government would not have to hide behind the guise of public-private partnerships.

This is also the provision where the (dis)honorable members of Congress would gain much because it is they who approve franchises to companies.

Will this not result in cheaper services to the Filipino people? Well, did power and water services become cheaper with privatization?

6. Section 4 (2), Art. XIV on ownership of educational institutions

7. Section 11 (1 and 2), Art. XVI on ownership and management of mass media and on the policy for engagement in the advertising industry

The impact of amending these provisions is not so much on what it would take away from the Filipino people economically, but in what it could do to shape the thinking, culture, preferences, and orientation of the Filipino people.

In a previous analysis, this author referred to an article with the title Who Owns The Media? The 6 Monolithic Corporations That Control Almost Everything We Watch, Hear And Read written by Michael Snyder, published in October 4, 2010. The article revealed that only six companies control global media – from 50 companies in 1983 – namely, Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corporation, CBS corporation and NBC Universal.

The supposed rationale of Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 is to allow Congress “to enact into law, economic policies responsive and relevant to current national and world conditions.” Whatever this means is left to our (dis)honorable Congressmen to determine.

Will a sell out of the country result in its “development” and in generating employment for the Filipino people, the most oft-repeated justification by the government? A study by Ibon Foundation reveal otherwise.

Quoting from the Ibon study:

“Economic sovereignty is critical to economic development. The unambiguous historical experience is that FDI must be strategically restricted and strictly controlled. This includes regulating TNC entry, establishment and their right to operate through equity and ownership restrictions, joint ventures, requiring local content and domestic reinvestment, demanding technology transfer, and others. These are vital policy tools to create linkages and benefits for the domestic economy. Sovereignty means “liberalizing” when ready to do so and on terms beneficial to the domestic economy.”

“This is the unambiguous lesson from the long historical experience of countries as diverse as: the United States (US), Germany and Japan in the 1900s-1950; South Korea and Taiwan in the 1960s-1980s; and China, Russia and Cuba during their periods of revolutionary change. An economy will only get net benefits if the state exercises its sovereignty over FDI and requires real technology transfers, controls the use and repatriation of profits, and applies local content and other performance requirements. Moreover, strict limits on foreign equity ownership are among the most important FDI-related measures.”

In terms of employment:

“The economic facts are straightforward. Increasing FDI has actually been accompanied by increasing unemployment, increasing labor export, falling real wages, shrinking manufacturing and more volatile growth. There have also not been any real increases in domestic capital formation or in government revenues which have increasingly relied on regressive taxes on personal consumption.”

“The cumulative stock of FDI has doubled from some US$10 billion in 1995 to US$19 billion in 2007. Inward FDI flows increased from being equivalent to less than one percent of gross fixed capital formation in the early 1980s to between 15%-18% in the last few years. FDI accounted for 56% of total approved investments in 2007 or P215.2 billion in FDI out of total approved investments worth P385.8 billion.”

“FDI supposedly goes towards building a strong productive economic base. However, there is nothing to indicate that all that FDI has contributed to creating a strong domestic economy able to create jobs on a sustainable basis. On the contrary, the number of jobless Filipinos has continued to rise, and the 2001-2008 period is already the worst eight-year period of recorded unemployment in the country’s history. While jobs in export processing zones or special economic zones have been increasing, these have not been able to offset job losses and stunted industrial development elsewhere in the economy.”

Ibon Foundation’s conclusion:

“In short, foreign investment has been coming into the country but the supposed gains for economy and the people– such as jobs, poverty reduction and industrialization– are just not there. There are certainly other factors operating to explain these poor economic outcomes. But that is precisely the point: increasing foreign investment is not an end in itself. The country’s stunted development is not due to the lack of foreign investment but because of the lack of real policies to strengthen the domestic economy.”

“Moreover, the losses to the economy from unrestrained foreign investor domination will be immense. Local enterprises and businesses, already reeling from decades of globalization, will be weakened further. The country’s scarce mineral, forestry and fishery resources will be exploited with scant benefits for the local economy, while local communities will be dislocated.”

If the Filipino people would not mobilize against these maneuvers aimed at a wholesale sell out of the country’s national patrimony, we may wake up one day and realize that we have become slaves and squatters in our own country. (bulatlat.com)

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