Marcos is here to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union Commemorative Summit from Dec. 12 to 14, his seventh official trip abroad since he assumed office on June 30. While on his flight to Belgium, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., revealed to the press and broke his silence on the Maharlika Investment Fund. With candour, he admitted that he is the one who first voiced out and presented the idea of establishing the MIF.
He added, “It’s very clear that we need added investment. This is another way to get that.”
When asked if he believes that the MIF would be “advantageous” for the Philippines he responded, “For sure. I would not have brought it up otherwise.”
Backgrounder on the MIF
Initially, the proposed MIF sought initial investment that totals PHP250 billion from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines, and a P25-billion allocation from the national government.
The proposed House Bill No. 6398, or the MIF Act, has scrapped the budget allotment and removed the GSIS and SSS as funding sources amidst a public outcry on the use of pension funds for the plan. The President was originally going to be the chair of the board but this was also amended and replaced instead by the Finance Secretary.
There were also protests in the rushed urgency to pass the bill filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the president’s son Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos, and other administration lawmakers.
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An evolving version of MIF
By the 1st of December, the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries approved the bill, and authors of the proposed measure were targeting its passage on the third and final reading by December — this is barely a month since it was filed on the 28th of November.
Marcos said: “Well, we’re just doing the regular process of looking at the bill. Well, not we. It’s the legislature. So let them do their jobs.” During this time, he also addressed fears of the public over possible misuse of government funds due to alleged questionable provisions in the bill, dismissing criticisms about the timing of the proposal.
“Let’s not debate until we see the final form because we could be debating about provisions that will no longer exist. So let’s just wait for what the legislature will do,” he said. He would let lawmakers come up with a “perfect” version of the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III perceived that the president’s comment supporting the MIF was a signal to his allies in Congress to back the measure. “The president is backing up the concept of the sovereign wealth fund, but not the details. The president is right in saying that we have to do our work and part of our work is to question whether we need this at this time,” he further digressed.
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The latest version of MIF
As lawmakers in the Lower House continued to approve changes to the Maharlika bill — now known as HB 6608 — it now counts 216 coauthors from different political parties, or nearly 90%of the House membership.
The new proposal would have the Maharlika fund would have 20% of its profits allotted to social welfare projects, while imposing penalties on those who would violate the fund’s investment policies. There is also a recent move by the House banks and financial intermediaries committee to release a copy of its report on the draft substitute measure creating the MIF.
Representative Irwin Tieng, Panel Chair and Manila representative, relayed that his committee held an executive session in the morning to approve several amendments to the Maharlika bill. The report was then signed by Tieng, appropriations panel chair Rep. Elizaldy Co, and ways and means committee chair Rep. Joey Salceda.
The Maharlika bill at this point stated, “Investments… shall be limited to National Economic and Development Authority Board-approved major capital projects to ensure that these are in line with the socioeconomic development program of the government.”
To complete the changes to the bill, Tieng’s panel also approved the earlier changes during the executive session on Monday, including the designation of the finance secretary as chair of the fund’s board, and the inclusion of four independent directors. He further assured the public that “all possible safeguards” were included — contrary to what national scientist Raul Fabella claims is “beyond repair”.
Remaining Opposition and Debate
After the improvements, there were some who were swayed to approve the Maharlika Bill. But there are also parties that are not yet convinced the MIF is airtight. Paul Daza said he was now inclined to support the Maharlika bill. “It’s now a much better bill,” Daza said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on the other hand urged Romualdez to see that the measures were thoroughly debated in the lower chamber. The same goes for Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri that the bill should undergo scrutiny.
Retired Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of the Commission on Elections called on Filipinos to oppose the Maharlika bill through social media before it is too late. She encouraged the public to express their sentiments via photos or TikTok dance to let their lawmakers know how they feel. “You can do it any way you want but please make your objections known to your representatives and senators by posting your opinions and objections on social media.”
The Maharlika Investment Fund is still up in the air at this point. On my end, I’m still a bit apprehensive about how things will turn out. Hoping for the best here, folks. Comment down below on what your insights are about the Maharlika Fund. We appreciate different perspectives and would like to see your feedback here soon. Thanks!