MANILA – Several business groups said Friday the government can shift the budget for the proposed constitutional convention (con-con) to priority projects and measures that will address the current challenges of Filipinos.

In a joint statement, the Filipina CEO Circle, the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines, Justice Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, Inc. and Women Business Council Philippines said the financial cost of con-con based on National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) estimate would be between PHP14 billion to PHP28 billion, which funds could be spent on pro-people programs.

As proposed by House Bill 7352, 300 con-con delegates will get PHP10,000 per day, or a total of PHP3 million per day, or PHP400 million for seven months, this amount could be invested in various social programs of the government.

“We believe these funds can be better used on agriculture to address the high inflation, transportation to enable Filipinos to get to work and home in much less time, and needed social services like health, education, and social security,” the business groups said.

Citing data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the business groups said the low-end budget for con-con at PHP14 billion is higher than the proposed budget for school buildings (PHP13.9 billion), farm-to-market roads (PHP13.1 billion), Rice Comprehensive Enhancement Fund (PHP10 billion), basic education facilities (PHP9.8 billion), computerization program for public schools (PHP8.9 billion), agricultural machineries, equipment and facilities (PHP5.9 billion), and budget for 10,000 additional teachers (PHP2.7 billion).

The organizations added the recent reforms of the government, such as the amendments to the Public Service Act, Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act can achieve substantial economic gains, which political debate can derail.

The business groups said these economic reforms have addressed the top concerns of the business community.

“We believe that these reforms, combined with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s efforts to revive local and foreign investment, can accelerate recovery and job growth at a time when the Philippines and the world face serious economic headwinds. Investors look for stability when making investment decisions. The possibly lengthy and fractious process of amending the Constitution may make investors take a wait-and-see attitude for an extended period of time and therefore derail the impact of the reforms,” they said.

They added the Congress can instead focus on economic and other legislations, such as the two tax reform bills and the Ease of Paying Taxes bill.

“We believe these can greatly enhance government revenue and job creation at this critical time,” the groups said. (PNA)