House passes Maharlika investment fund bill on 3rd, final reading
The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third and final reading the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill.
House Bill 6608 received 279 yes votes, six no votes, and zero abstentions.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had certified the measure as urgent, paving the way for its second and third reading approvals on the same day.
His message was read during the House's plenary session, a development that came just a few minutes after the House approved the bill on second reading via voice vote.
Marcos, while on his way to Brussels to attend the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit, indicated that he believed the Maharlika sovereign wealth fund would be advantageous to the country.
“For sure. I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise," Marcos told reporters on the Belgium-bound plane.
‘For high-impact infra’
The MIF bill seeks to maximize the investible funds of state-run financial institutions and ultimately increase public funds for nation-building.
The measure provides that the MIF would be funded by the investible resources of the Landbank of the Philippines (P50 billion), the Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion), and the dividends/profits of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The authors originally planned for the investible funds of the GSIS and the SSS to be included as sources for the proposed sovereign wealth fund's capital as well, an idea they later dropped after, said co-author Representative Stella Quimbo, pensioners expressed their concerns.
“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,” co-author Speaker Martin Romualdez said after the House approved the measure.
“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 added.
‘Tiniest in the world’
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, one of the six House members who voted against the bill, said there was no point in pushing for the sovereign wealth measure when the country did not have enough funds for it.
“No avalanche of accepted amendments could perfect the Maharlika bill which was introduced and deliberated with inherent substantial and chronic defects," Lagman said.
He said that with the initial capital of only P75 billion, "the MIF will be launched as the tiniest sovereign wealth fund in the world.”
“Whatever investible resources the government and the GOCCs have must not be parked in long-term contingent investments," Lagman said.
He said these must be invested today for human development and sufficient allocations for education, health, employment, food security, and basic infrastructure.
"We must bail out our people today from poverty, inflation and the dire prospects of recession,” Lagman said.
Asked for comment after the House approved the investment fund bill, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said senators would "definitely be studying this measure during the session break to prepare for hearings and debates when we resume sessions next month."
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has said he, Marcos and Romualdez had met weeks back to discuss the measure.
"In fairness to the president, he never instructed me to hasten the proceedings on this issue," Zubiri said on Monday.
The House Bill 6608 approved on second reading carried amendments proposed by House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro, including increasing from 20% to 25% the percentage of the MIF profits that would be set aside for social welfare projects and state subsidies to the poor.
Another amendment Castro introduced that was adopted by the House was the provision prohibiting the MIF Corporation from investing in the following entities and companies:
- those with record/s of human rights violations including against indigenous people’s, fisherfolk and laborers;
- those with a record of corruption;
- firms engaged in cluster ammunition, nuclear arms, international ballistics, missile technology and equipment production; and
- those engaged in activities causing degradation of the environment, among other similar activities
The MIF bill authors, however, rejected Castro’s proposal to increase the jail time for those in the MIF Corporation and the entities with which they are engaged who are found guilty of corruption and related crimes.
“We have studied this very well, and we did consider proportionality [in terms of meting penalties and sanctions],” said Albay Representative Joey Salceda, one of the authors of the measure and the chairperson of the House ways and means panel. —NB/BM, GMA Integrated News