BY JOEL CALAMBA ESCOL, Managing Editor
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives finally approved the Maharlika Investment Fund MIF) bill on third and final reading, reports reaching MDNN said yesterday.
Earlier this week, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr certified the bill as urgent.
But before the said bill was finally approved by the Lower Houses, it also passed several amendments and scrutiny from both pro admin congressmen and members of the Makabayan Bloc.
The bill, reports said, had 279 yes votes and six of the representatives not voting. It also has zero abstentions.
The president, who attended the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels said that he believed the Maharlika sovereign wealth fund would give many advantages for the country to rise again.
“For sure. I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise,” Marcos told the media who joined him in the summit.
According to the bill, it is going to maximize investible funds of state-run financial institutions including GSIS and SSS. But said plan was immediately seen by many lawmakers as a ‘risky attempt’ as it may get the pension plans from both GSIS and SSS in risky situations.
With the amendments, the House has decided to get investible funds from Landbank of the Philippines (P50 billion), the Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion), and the dividends/profits of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Co-author of the bill, Speaker Martin Romualdez said: “We view the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund Act as an effective vehicle to execute and sustain high-impact infrastructure projects, urban and rural development, agricultural support, and other programs that would generate more income and economic activity in the country.
“By gaining financial independence from global economic factors such as inflation and economic regression, we will build a business climate that will attract more companies to invest in the country, generate jobs, support agricultural modernization, sustain social welfare programs, and achieve economic transformation,” he also pointed out.
Last week, the Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF) was the subject of discussions among lawmakers after two of the administration congressmen filed bill no. 6398.
The bill, filed by Congressmen Martin Romualdez and co-authored by the President’s son who is a newly elected congressman in their province, is aimed at helping the government raise more revenues, by way of investments using the government agencies extra funds and the pension funds from both GSIS and SSS.
Senator Miguel Zubiri told the media he will look into the bill carefully and monitor its updates as soon as it reaches the Lower House on December 12.
The House of Representatives or otherwise known as the Lower House have been flocked by the majority of the administration’s loyal supporters.
Senator Imee Marcos, the president’s sister, is also reluctant about the idea of establishing a sovereign wealth fund.
She said she has not yet looked into the bill but she was anxious about the idea of risking the retirement funds of the SSS and GSIS members and pensioners.
“Ako kinakabahan sapagka’t sa panahong ito na ang sama ng ekonomiya pati ang World Bank sabi bagsak na bagsak sa susunod na taon sa 2023. Sa kalagitnaan, lalala pa raw. Diyos ko! Papaano na lang tayo,” Senator Imee Marcos said.
She questioned how the government would be able to properly manage its finances during this turbulent time of the crisis as well as the threatening global recession.
“Hindi naman ako ekonomista pero sa tingin ko, nakakatakot yatang ipusta yung retirement fund, yung pension fund ng GSIS. Nakakatakot yata. Wag naman. ‘Invest so-called pero high-risk pa rin,” Imee added.
Zubiri said he would bring this matter to Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Mark Villar, Sonny Angara, Grace Poe, and Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the committees on Finance, Ways and Means, Economic Affairs, Banks and Financial Institutions, and Government Owned and controlled Corporation.
He will urge his co-senators to make a study of this proposed bill and present their respective position to make things clearer and transparent, being a government-lead investment program.
“We must first ensure the Sovereign Wealth Fund is necessary… If so, we need to ensure that it is managed properly and that safeguards are in place so that it would not be misused or prone to corruption. We must make sure that there is full transparency and efficient utilization of this fund,” Zubiri stressed.