Cha-cha for economic growth? Not necessary, says Aquino

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III reiterated his position that changing the 1987 Constitution is not necessary to help spur the Philippine economy's growth.

"At the most, it may, theoretically, it may help, but a lot of the feedback I am getting is that it is not necessary," Aquino told Rappler's Lala Rimando in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, October 17.

He said there are more pressing concerns that the government should address, aside from charter change.

"When they conduct surveys, cha-cha is, at the most, 7th in the list of 10 priorities. We talk about red tape, policies, corruption, infrastructure, cost of electricity, etc., as more pressing concerns," he said.

He cited property ownership restrictions, which charter change advocates say are hampering economic growth, as an argument that is not "born by the facts," saying other countries also have ownership restrictions but are still economically strong.

"China is the biggest growing economy in the last 10 years and they only have long term leases, [they] cannot own land. Vietnam, the darling for such a long time, [foreigners] also… cannot own land. So that doesn't seem to be an argument born by the facts," Aquino said.

His statements are consistent with his earlier pronouncements against changing the Constitution, despite prodding from Congressional leadership.

The President previously expressed concern that a revision in the charter may prompt other revisions, not just those involving the economy.

Despite this, he said he is open to the idea of revising parts of the Constitution.

"I asked the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) Director General (Arsenio Balisacan) and again Sec. (Cesar) Purisima to come up with the inventory of all the studies that support or does not support the necessity for charter change as a growth factor," he said.

"Until I am shown empirical evidence, I don't think the risk of opening up the Constitution is worth the theoretical possibility that it might have," he added. -