How do you modify the handicap feature?

The goal is to create a mod which removes the combat effects of the handicap (e.g. bonus damage changes) and gives an eco-only handicap.

I was expecting the handicap to be managed via effects that could be edited in empires2_x2_p1 but I couldn’t find any reference to it.

Does anybody know where the handicap functionality is managed and if it can be edited for a mod?