Senators vow thorough review of Maharlika fund proposal: ‘Haste makes waste’
MANILA, Philippines — Alarmed by the bill’s speedy approval in the House of Representatives, senators have vowed to hold further discussions and conduct an in-depth analysis of the plan to establish a sovereign wealth fund via the Maharlika Investment Fund.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has expressed concern that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s sudden certification of House Bill No. 6608 could rush a vote on the measure in the Senate.
“The Maharlika Fund will have extensive effects and ramifications not only to our generation but potentially to future generations of Filipinos. Hence this should not be rushed. Haste makes waste,” he said.
READ: Maharlika Bill breezes through House in 17 days
Senator Risa Hontiveros issued a stern warning to the government, stressing the potential for a P250 billion blunder if caution is not taken.
“Our economy is already hurting now. Imagine the world of pain we’ll be in if we rush head first into a P250-billion mistake,” she said.
READ: Hontiveros: Gov’t must pass urgent measures to lower food prices instead of Maharlika Investment Fund
Senate Majority leader Joel Villanueva expressed support for a sovereign wealth fund but pointed out that: “Further discussions are needed in the Senate to ensure that the fund will be managed properly with transparency and accountability.”
“We also need to pinpoint and clarify the investment objectives and strategies for the fund so that it will be well spent for the betterment of the Filipino people,” he also said.
For Senate President Miguel Zubiri, the upper chamber “will study through the hearings and plenary debates all measures with a fine tooth comb” emphasizing that “we respect the committee system.”
He said they are awaiting the final version of House Bill No. 6608 from the lower chamber. He also said that nothing can be done or transmitted until January 23, when congressional sessions resume. Congress would go on a recess from December 17.
Zubiri also explained that upon Senate’s receipt of the bill’s final version, it will be referred to at least four committees, primarily to the Senate committee on banks. The chairpersons of the committees will then schedule hearings for discussions, which, according to Zubiri, may last until the middle of February.
“We respect the committee system in the Senate, and we will study through the hearings and plenary debates all measures with a fine tooth comb to make sure every bill or proposal would be good for our people and our country,” he said.
“The speed of the passage of the measure is dependent on the ability of the Chairman and the quality of work that is put in during the hearings and debates,” he also said.
House Bill No. 6608, which seeks to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund, was approved Thursday on the third and final reading at the lower chamber, with 279 lawmakers voting in the affirmative while six voted against. No legislator abstained from the voting.
The House of Representatives swiftly passed the measure as 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 House Bill 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 standard procedure.
READ: Marcos says Maharlika fund creation his idea
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 Maharlika Investment Fund is not the right time for the country, which currently does not have surplus funds to invest while national debt stands at P13.64 trillion and the national budget now at a deficit.
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.
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