Today in Philippine History, March 11, 1947, the "parity amendment" to the 1935 Constitution was ratified

Saturday March 10, 2012 ()

On March 11, 1947, the Filipino people ratified in a nationwide plebiscite the "parity amendment" to the 1935 Constitution.

The plebiscite and the approval of three-quarters of the members of the House and Senate, were required to amend the 13th article of the 1935 constitution which reserved the exploitation of natural resources only for Filipinos.

Parity amendment to the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines

Earlier, there were fraud and violent campaign tactics during the April 1946 election which resulted in the denial of the seats of some members of the house and the senate.

The definition of three-quarters became an issue because three-quarters of the sitting members, not the full House and Senate, had approved the amendment. The supreme court however, ruled in favor of the administration's interpretation, enabling then president Manuel Roxas to gain legislative approval on September 18, 1946

Thus, the amendment that granted United States citizens and corporations equal rights with the Filipinos in the utilization and exploitation of its natural resources and the operation of public utilities was approved.

The Philippine Trade Act, commonly known as the Bell Trade Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1946, and approved by the Philippine legislature on July 2, two days before the Philippine independence, stipulated that free trade be continued until 1954, thereafter, tariffs would be increased 5 percent annually until 1974. Quotas were established for Philippine products both for free trade and tariff periods. At the same time, there would be no restrictions on the entry of United States products to the Philippines, nor would there be Philippine import duties. The Philippine peso was tied at a fixed rate to the United States dollar which was 2 to 1.

Manuel Roxas addressing lawmakers
(President Manuel Roxas addressing the lawmakers during his first State of the Nation Address on June 3, 1946)

However, if parity privileges of individuals or corporations were infringed upon, the president of the United States had the authority to revoke any aspect of the trade agreement. Payment of war damages amounting to US$620 million, as stipulated in the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946, was made contingent on Philippine acceptance of the parity clause.

The Bell Trade Act, particularly the parity clause, was seen by critics as an inexcusable surrender of Philippine national sovereignty. The pressure of the sugar barons, particularly those of Roxas's home region of the western Visayan Islands, and other landowner interests, however, was irresistible.

In 1955 a revised United States-Philippine Trade Agreement (the Laurel-Langley Agreement) was negotiated. This treaty which took effect on January 1, 1956, was more favorable to Filipino interests. It abolished the United States authority to control the exchange rate of the peso, made parity privileges reciprocal, extended the sugar quota, and extended the time period for the reduction of other quotas and for the progressive application of tariffs on Philippine goods exported to the United States.

The plebiscite was participated in by only 40 percent of the electorate.

Sources

  1. U.S. Library of Congress via Philippines Economic Relations with the United States (http://countrystudies.us/)
  2. Philippine News Agency archives
  3. Bell Trade Act, Encyclopedia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/)
  4. Photo credit: Wikipedia commons, Philippine Presidential Museum and Library for Roxas


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