Business Mirror | Thursday, 18 June 2009
Group says Cha-cha to lift ban on 100% foreign ownership of land
Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Correspondent.
ARE lawmakers planning to rewrite the Constitution to lift the ban on 100-percent foreign ownership of land in the Philippines?
The question was raised by the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) to lawmakers on Thursday as they noted that the European Union (EU) is allegedly exerting pressure on Malacañang to pursue Charter Change (Cha-cha), precisely for that purpose.
Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said if this is the case, lawmakers are acting as facilitators for a big sellout of the country’s agricultural land.
Meanwhile, he said the EU is committing a national political foul play in lobbying for the passage of Cha-cha.
“This country is not for sale; its lands are reserved for public ownership and for the common good of every hardworking Filipino. Please don’t touch our lands and quit from conspiring with the government over the national auction of Philippine lands to European business giants,” Hicap said.
According to Hicap, such “diabolical economic agenda” of the EU will further exacerbate, complicate and worsen the problem of landlessness and agrarian injustice in the country.
“Are they trying to colonize this country through economic means under this era of globalization-led modern-day slavery?” Hicap asked.
The Pamalakaya leader issued the statement a day after former foreign affairs undersecretary Merlin Magallona warned that lawmakers calling for the removal of nationalist economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution could be playing into the hands of the European Union.
Magallona, also former dean of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) College of Law, said the 27-member of the EU had formally requested the Arroyo government under the World Trade Organization to remove the ban on foreign land ownership.
The EU also requested the government to allow foreign nationals, particularly lawyers, to be allowed to practice in the Philippines, according to Magallona, who was a guest speaker at a forum on Charter change at the UP College of Law on Wednesday.
Pamalakaya’s Hicap believes the EU wants the ban on foreign ownership abolished because it would soon enter into a bilateral economic agreement with the Philippine government under the EU-RP Free Trade Agreement, where one of the major provisions is the removal of the ban on foreign ownership of land.
“The Philippine government has been keeping the details of the EU-RP Free Trade Agreement away from the Filipino public and affected sectors and interest groups. This agreement will allow European transnational corporations to lease if not acquire agricultural lands and other productive lands from Filipino landowners,” he said.
“To set the record straight, the Philippine government is set to lease or sell some 1.5 million hectares of prime agricultural lands to foreign countries where the countries have entered into a bilateral economic and trade agreement,” Hicap added.
According to Pamalakaya, foreign countries are allowed to lease if not buy lands from the Philippines under the following bilateral agreements—the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, RP-China Agricultural Agreement, RP-South Korea Bilateral Trade Agreement, RP-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the soon-to-be-finalized EU-RP Free Trade Agreement and the RP-US Bilateral Trade Agreement.
“All these agreements require the Philippine government to lease or sell its lands to foreign corporations, and this is extremely dangerous to the 90 million Filipinos,” the group said.