Plenary debates for amended version of Maharlika Fund bill begin
MANILA, Philippines — Plenary debates on the new version of the proposal seeking to create a Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), which now includes amendments made to the original bill, started at the House of Representatives on Monday.
During Monday’s session, the House tackled House Bill No. 6608 — the fourth version of House Bill No. 6398, with the House Committee on banks and financial intermediaries chairperson and Manila 5th District Rep. Irwin Tieng sponsoring the bill.
According to Tieng, the new bill contains the following amendments:
- change in capitalization and funding
- change in board composition
- exclusion of Sections 15, 19, 25, and 26 on the GOCC Governance Act of 2011
- removal of exemption from the Philippine Competition Act
In terms of the change in capitalization and funding, Tieng confirmed to Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza, who has raised concerns about the bill since it was filed, that aside from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) funds worth P175 billion from the pooled funds, the P25 billion from the national budget is also removed.
Amendments suggested last Friday during the House Committee on appropriations, like the removal of the President as board chair and the increase of independent directors, were also adopted.
Certain sections of the Republic Act No. 10149 or the GOCC (government-owned and controlled corporations) Governance Act of 2011 were also not included in the exemptions that would be enjoyed by the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) if House Bill No. 6608 is enacted:
- Section 15 (President appointing a director) – The head of the MIC would still be appointed by the sitting president based on a shortlist provided by the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG)
- Section 19 (Fiduciary duties of the board) – the Board of the MIC are required to act in the best interest of the corporation
- Section 25 (Full Disclosure) – MIC would still be required to maintain a public website which people can access to check audited financial statements, reports, borrowings and flow of money, performance and strategy maps, and others
- Section 26 (Special Audit) – The MIC can be subjected to Special Audits as seen necessary by the GCG
Daza, who called out several provisions of House Bill No. 6398, said several of his concerns were addressed.
“I think I must say, one of my favorite sayings: give credit where credit is due. Two weeks ago when I voiced out my concerns, and in fact my objections on some of the provisions, it appears and we’ve been assured that — at least for this representation — all my concerns have been addressed,” Daza said, after Tieng answered his questions.
“GSIS, SSS, has been deleted as a source of funding, the national budget, the two percent cap, additional independent directors, there’s even punitive sections […] So I would like to commend the sponsors, the leadership, in listening to the inputs not just from this representation and colleagues but from the public and stakeholders. So thank you for that,” he added.
The Northern Samar lawmaker also claimed that democracy prevailed after lawmakers listened to the public’s complaints.
“I feel like this is now a much, much better version, and I think it’s something that I can support, the answers were very clear, and addressed. I think many of my concerns in fact, the public’s concern (were addressed) […] I think pwede ko pong sabihin sa aking mga kababayan, nakinig po ang mga congressmen and congresswomen sa Kongreso, umiral po ang demokrasya [I can say to our fellow countrymen that lawmakers in Congress hear our plea, democracy is existing],” Daza added.
House Bill No. 6398 has been criticized heavily by opposition lawmakers and netizens due to several concerns, primarily due to fears that workers in the government and the private sector may lose their pension if GSIS and SSS places funds in the MIC, and if the latter’s investments do not reap high returns.
While the P175 billion from GSIS and SSS would no longer be included, critics still maintained that House Bill No. 6398 — or its counterparts — should no longer push through due to the current fiscal status of the country, where the budget is usually in a deficit and the lack of surplus funds.