Philippines Finance Secretary, Carlos Dominguez, has advised legislators against allowing foreign ownership of land, an ’emotional’ issue for Filipinos
A House committee agreed to strike out from their charter change (Cha-Cha) resolution the proposed amendment that will have allowed foreigners to own land in the Philippines.
This is coming as leader of an indigenous community, Uruwaarige, Wannila Aththo, and the Centre for Environmental Justice filed a writ application with the Court of Appeal seeking an order to prevent the allocation of indigenous community lands for maize cultivation for leading companies.
Minister of Wildlife, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Mahaweli Development Authority, the Director-General of the Department of Wildlife, and Director-General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation among others were named as the respondents in the application.
Leader of the Indigenous community Uruwaarige Wannila Aththo and the petitioners pointed out the indigenous community for centuries used these lands and survived in the wilderness and the decision taken by the Mahaweli Development Authority to allocate over 5000 acres of forest land for maize cultivation takes away their livelihood.
The petitioners pointed out that the companies awarded these lands have illegally closed down the canals which carry water to the Rambaken-Oya and this had caused grave environmental destruction as well.
The petitioners requested for the Court of Appeal to issue a writ order on the respondents to immediately suspend the action taken.
However, on Tuesday, February 2, the Philippines House committee on constitutional amendments deleted this provision just before they approved Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2, which is designed to allow Congress to tinker with the current restrictions on foreign investors by way of legislation.
The committee gave their nod to economic Cha-Cha on the same day the country commemorated the 34th anniversary of the 1987 Constitution’s ratification.
It was panel vice chair and Iloilo 3rd District Representative Lorenz Defensor who moved to drop RBH 2’s original proposal to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Section 7, Article XII of the charter.
The provision currently states that “no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of public domain.”
Had the committee agreed to pass RBH 2 as is, then adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” would have essentially empowered Congress to pass a bill allowing foreign ownership of land in the Philippines.