House passes Maharlika Investment Fund bill
MANILA, Philippines — The bill seeking to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) – a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) that the government can use to make investments – was approved Thursday on the third and final reading at the House of Representatives.
House Bill (HB) No. 6608 was approved with 279 lawmakers voting in the affirmative while six voted against. No legislator abstained from the voting.
The lower chamber swiftly passed the measure as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified the bill as urgent.
Marcos Jr.’s action enabled the House of Representatives, currently being helmed by his cousin – Speaker and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, to expeditiously proceed with approving HB No. 6608 on the third and final reading even just hours after passing it on the second reading – skipping the required three session days interval in the normal procedure.
READ: Maharlika fund bill passage by Thursday possible if certified as urgent – lawmaker
Without Marcos’ certification, the earliest that the House can approve the bill could have been on January 25, as Congress is slated to go on a recess from December 17 to January 22.
The House’s approval of the controversial measure happened despite opposition from several sectors and public outcry, as well as reservations from some legislators that the creation of the MIF or SWF is not the right time for the country.
Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. had said that while the intention of an SWF is “very laudable,” it should be “done properly and [at] the right time,” pointing out that the country does not have surplus funds to invest in the MIF.
He likewise asserted that the national debt stands at P13.64 trillion while the national budget is now at a deficit.
READ: Lawmaker says goal of Maharlika fund ‘laudable’ but timing is off
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro had said there is no necessity to certify HB No. 6608 as urgent because “people who are already deep [in] debt” do not need it, especially amid rising prices of goods, low salaries, and other economic problems.
READ: No urgency to pass Maharlika fund bill: People already in deep debt don’t need it – lawmaker
She emphasized that such a measure should also be thoroughly scrutinized since it involves using huge public funds. Castro further reminded legislators that several issues regarding the proposal are yet to be addressed.
To recall, the original bill (HB No. 6398) to create the MIF included the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) among government banks and corporations that would contribute money to raise the P275 billion venture capital for the investment trust.
But following an outcry and public pressure, proponents came up with HB No. 6608, taking out the GSIS and SSS.
Under the original bill, proponents planned to put up P275 billion in venture money for the MIF, which will be derived specifically from the GSIS (P125 billion), SSS (P50 billion), Land Bank of the Philippines (P50 billion), Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion) and the General Appropriations Act (P25 billion).
But former Makabayan lawmaker and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares had warned that bill authors might insist on including the GSIS and SSS later on when public outrage dies down.
READ: Castro: GSIS, SSS fund may still be in the mix for Maharlika fund after public fury wanes
The bill seeking to establish the MIF was principally authored by Speaker Romualdez; Majority Floor Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe; Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos; Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre; and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.
On December 13, a proponent of the bill for the establishment of the MIF admitted that both the GSIS and SSS may invest in the MIF if their respective boards of directors would allow it.
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