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Romualdez defends amendments to Maharlika Fund IRR

House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez over the weekend welcomed the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), saying that these would “protect and guarantee” against “political interference.”

In a statement released Sunday, Romualdez said the latest IRR would ensure that the MIF was “managed with the utmost transparency,” and that the autonomy of the Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC) Board would provide for more “objective and effective decision-making.”

This comes as Malacañang released the MIF's revised IRR, giving the president authority to accept or reject nominees submitted by the MIC’s Advisory Body for positions on the Board.

It also removed the specific advanced educational degree requirements for those who can be appointed to manage the sovereign wealth fund.

“The final IRR, as introduced by [President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.], clarify the Board’s discretionary powers while ensuring adherence to the law and alignment with the nation’s socioeconomic development program,” Romualdez said.

“President Marcos’ directive to review and strengthen the IRR of the MIF underscores the importance of safeguarding this national asset,” he added, noting that the MIC Board composition “further guarantees a well-rounded perspective in managing the fund.”

The Presidential Communications Office called for applications and nominations for the MIC officers on September 12, 2023, with the requirements and qualifications posted on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website.

The six candidates include the MIC president and CEO, two regular directors, and three independent directors.

“The MIF, if managed independently and efficiently, can significantly contribute to the nation’s socioeconomic development, aligning with the government’s broader goals,” Romualdez said.

“This strategic move by the President is a testament to his vision of a more prosperous and self-reliant Philippines, one where every Filipino stands to benefit from the nation's economic successes,” he added.

Liberty, flexibility

Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman likewise welcomed the release of the revised Maharlika Fund IRR.

"The President earlier assured that the members of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) Board, whose primary job is to rule and administer the MIC, its assets, and investments by law, will have the necessary freedom to oversee the fund without undue political interventions that will impede its fulfillment of functions," said Pangandaman in a Sunday statement.

"I am glad of this development, as this shall allow the MIC Board to have the liberty and flexibility to fulfill its mandate, and explore beneficial investment opportunities while adhering faithfully to the letter of the law and ensuring high-impact investments that are in line with the country’s socioeconomic development policies and programs. This will also improve accountability, openness, and efficacy in carrying out the law's provisions."

Given this development, Pangandaman was confident that the MIF would be functional by the end of this year - on track and consistent with the timeline given earlier.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno in July said the MIF was expected to be operational by early 2024 after the measure was signed into law earlier in the month.

Marcos in January touted the MIF in his opening remarks at the Philippines Country Strategy Dialogue in Davos. He also said the measure would fund critical infrastructure projects.

Several groups earlier expressed concern over the measure - the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

For his part, Diokno said criticisms of the measure come from those who have yet to read it in full, as safeguards would be put in place to ensure transparency. — DVM, GMA Integrated News