Eyebrows raised over remark relating 1987 Constitution change to Oriental Mindoro oil spill

March 22, 2023 - 6:28 PM
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Robin Padilla in Senate
Sen. Robin Padilla in a plenary session at the Senate on March 20, 2023 as posted on his Facebook page (ROBINPADILLA.OFFICIAL/Facebook)

A senator’s initiative to relate matters of the amendment of the Philippine Constitution and the Oriental Mindoro oil spill earned the attention of the local online community.

In a televised interview on Saturday, Sen. Robin Padilla said that the oil spill could have been avoided if the country’s shipping industry had been open to foreign ownership.

“Kung iyang mga barko na ‘yan ay luma at tagpi-tagpi, eh, kasalanan po ‘yan ng ating [1987 Philippine] Constitution,” he told CNN Philippines in a video posted on March 18.

Padilla’s colleague, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, previously called the attention of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority following claims that the sunken motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress, was 50 years old and had not been refurbished according to standards before it sailed.

“Sapagkat kung ang Constitution sana natin, pinapayagan natin ang foreign competition, lalo na sa shipping, hindi sana ganyan ang kalagayan ng ating shipping dito sa bansa — na konting disgrasya lang, eh ganyan ang nangyayari,” the neophyte senator added.

New amendments to the Public Service Act or Republic Act 11659 already allow full foreign ownership of public services not classified as public utility. These include shipping industries, telecommunications, expressways, and airports.

“Kung gusto po natin talaga, na itong mga batas na ‘to — na hindi na kwestunin at hindi na magkaroon ng legal question — kung ito ba ay Constitutional o hindi, eh, ayusin na natin. Ayusin na natin ‘yung Saligang Batas,” Padilla continued.

The senator is the chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.

He is currently focused on changing the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to “allow foreign businesses to directly invest in a more conducive landscape.”

Last month, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the Charter change is not among his priorities.

Meanwhile, Padilla’s initiative of connecting the Philippine Constitution and the Oriental Mindoro oil spill raised some eyebrows online.

“‘Yung bagyo, baka gusto [niya] rin isisi sa ‘outdated’ Constitution,” a Filipino on Twitter commented.

“Akalain mo ‘yun, na ma-i-connect [niya] ‘yan,” another Twitter user wrote with an eyeroll emoji, pertaining to Padilla’s desire for a Charter change while discussing the oil spill incident.

“Ay, oo grabe, foreign competition lang ang makakaiwas sa oil spill. Striktong pagpapatupad sa standards at pagmumulta sa mga lumalabag, who [you]??” a Filipino from YouTube sarcastically commented.

“Anong kinalaman ng competition sa oil spill, ang babaw ng analysis,” another YouTuber wrote.

Others, however, commented that Padilla was “right.”

“Local companies have a reputation of offering subpar services to the Filipinos,” a YouTube user claimed.

“Pair those with corrupt government regulators and events as disastrous as this one, are not unexpected. As long as these lousy local companies remain unchallenged by world-class foreign players, Filipinos will never get the best of services,” the online user added.

The incident 

Last month, MT Princess Empress capsized in the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, causing over 800,000 liters of industrial oil to spill into the Tablas Strait and other adjacent waterbodies like the Verde Island Passage.

ALSO READ: 5 reasons why you should care about Verde Island Passage | With pails and mugs, Oriental Mindoro residents clean up oil spill

The motor tanker was en route from Bataan to Iloilo.

It was only found on Tuesday, three weeks after it capsized.

The incident has so far affected over 150,000 individuals or 32,000 families in the regions of Mimaropa and Western Visayas.

RELATED: Oil spill hits tourism in Oriental Mindoro

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has recommended continuous suspension of fishing activities in parts of the affected areas.

MT Princess Empress is owned by RDC Reield Marine Services, which is engaged in the “business of marine services including, but not limited to, tank cleaning and other related services.”