WASHINGTON May 1 Philippine Vice President
Jejomar Binay, considered a frontrunner for the presidency in
2016, said on Thursday he favored relaxing constitutional
restrictions on foreign investment to create jobs.
Binay, who has been preparing a run for the past two years
and has a strong following among poor Filipinos, was asked after
a speech at a Washington think tank if he would support
consitutional changes to promote foreign investment.
"Personally I am in favor of revisiting the constitution of
the Philippines, particularly that portion of the 60-40
requirement of investors in the Philippines," he said, adding
that the aim was to overcome unemployment and poverty.
"More investment, more employment," he said.
The so-called 60-40 rule in the 1987 constitution limits
foreign ownership of local firms to 40 percent and is blamed for
the low level of foreign direct investment in the Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino has not addressed the issue and
Philippines Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima indicated this
month that the president did not intend to do so in the
remainder of his term.
Among other things, the restriction has prevented the
Philippines from joining 12 other nations involved in
negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) aimed at
regionwide market opening.
Binay, who has spent the week in Washington, said the
Philippines wanted more job-generating U.S. investment, of which
it was receiving less than any of its partners in the 10-nation
Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In a speech that would suit the campaign trail, he sketched
out an liberal economic agenda he said was aimed at alleviating
poverty and maintaining and spreading the benefits of the
country's current economic boom.
The first priority should be to strengthen economic
fundamentals by expanding tax revenues - not by raising taxes,
but by improving collection and compliance.
He also spoke of the need to increase infrastructure
spending from a current 2 percent to 5 percent of GDP and to
enhance education, health and environmental and social welfare
Binay said the "Philippine economic miracle" was too
narrowly based on a booming outsourcing industry and record-high
remittances from Filipinos working abroad.
"To provide sustainability, as well as greater employment
opportunities, the Philippine economic portfolio must diversify
equally into the manufacturing, agricultural, tourism and other
sectors of the economy," he said.
"We must further liberalize the economy to improve
competitiveness and attract investments both local and foreign.
We must harmonize local and national laws to ensure investors of
orderly business operations."
Boosting tourism, he said, required "a true open skies
policy with an aggressive airport development program," while
reform of the electric power industry was needed to address
high costs to consumers and energy shortages in the south.
The agricultural sector needed modernization to raise some
of the lowest productivity levels in the region and to weed out
middlemen depriving farmers of the full value of their produce.
Binay also pledged to keep up efforts to combat corruption.
"We must keep our promise to keep a clean and transparent
government with a stable policy regime into 2016 and beyond," he
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Richard Chang)