The Constitution, trade policy, and the WTO

Contrary to others’ declaration on the matter, the Philippine Constitution wisely left ideology out when referring to the manner on how to achieve Philippine economic and trade interests. It is not protectionist nor is it an advocate of liberalism. Rather, it seeks, as stated in its Preamble, to “build a just and humane society”. Thus, Article II, Section 19 (The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.) and Section 20 (The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.) should be read alongside the principle of our republic that: “The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.” (Article II, Section 5)

Furthermore, even though Article XII, Section 12, states that: The State shall promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods,” nevertheless, in the end, the State is to “adopt measures that help make them competitive.” This is then followed by Section 13: “The State shall pursue a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity.” Note the priority again given to serving the “general welfare”. The idea is not merely for the State to look after or care for a select number of sectors but for all, whether it be manufacturers or farmers, distributors or importers, sellers or consumers.

Finally, note that the very first section of Article XII declares that the “goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people.” Compare that with the goals of the WTO as stated in the preambular paragraphs of the Marrakesh Agreement which is the “raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services, while allowing for the optimal use of the world's resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development.” From the foregoing one can see that our Constitution is well supported by the objectives of the WTO.

Accordingly, rather than confining itself by siding with a narrow protectionist perspective, our Constitution wisely took an even-handed, pragmatic approach that seeks competitiveness for those companies of ours willing to be competitive, promotes the general welfare, and provides our citizens that one important fundamental right inherent in a democratic and republican State: the right to choose.