There is chorus of support from the House of Representatives for the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), and the voices are coming from different ends of the political spectrum.
This developed Monday night, Dec. 12 as the proposed Philippine sovereign wealth fund, now designated as House Bill (HB) No.6608, reached the plenary sponsorship and debate stage just 15 days after it was first filed by members of the House leadership in the 19th Congress.
Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries Chairman and Manila 5th district Rep. Irwin Tieng sponsored HB No.6608 on the floor.
As the bill was debated on, Majority bloc members Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd district Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., San Jose del Monte City Rep. Florida “Rida” Robes, Quezon 1st district Rep. Mark Enverga, Romblon lone district Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Quezon City 4th district Rep. Marvin Rillo, and Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-List Rep. Migs Nograles all came out with statements defending the MIF.
“We are all for the MIF proposal of the Speaker . The objective of maximizing or optimizing gains from the investment of excess state funds or assets is laudable. That is what every nation on this planet would want to do,” Gonzales, who belongs to the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said.
Robes, another PDP-Laban stalwart, said the House intends to put enough safeguards in the MIF bill to prevent possible abuse, corruption, and dissipation of the funds.
“The proposal of Speaker Martin will be a big help to our country and to every Filipino,” Robes stressed.
Quezon 1st district Rep. Mark Enverga, one of the leaders in the House of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), said, “This proposal has become contentious, but it is important to recognize that the country needs the MIF to fund its needs.”
“So we see the importance of this measure, and we support it, particularly for the reason that it will increase national revenues,” Enverga said.
Madrona, a Nacionalista Party (NP) leader, said investing government assets for optimum profit for their population is what 49 countries with sovereign wealth funds is doing.
“Napakalaki ng benepisyong maibibigay ng Maharlika fund kaya ako ay sumusuporta dito The potential benefits of the Maharlika fund are huge, that's why I'm in support of it)...Our only intention really is to make our country prosperous because of this investment,” Madrona said.
Rillo, a member of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said, “The Philippines, in creating a sovereign wealth fund, should learn from the best practices of countries with successful investments and avoid the mistakes of others.”
For her part, Nograles said the House under Speaker Romualdez listened to the suggestions of the public on the proposed MIF by continuously amending it and adding provisions for penalizing potential acts of wrongdoing.
“The most important of these are the penalty clauses or provisions. We want to avoid possible graft and corruption and scandals, which the public is afraid of. So we want the penalties to be at par with those contained in the Corporation Code,” Nograles, who is a lawyer, said.
She said another feature added to the bill is the earmarking of 20 percent of MIF profits for social projects. “Again, this is the House leadership way of listening to the public,” she added.
Even Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza, a member of the House minority, appears to have been swayed by the recent changes to the MIF. He was initially critical of the sovereign wealth fund.
“It’s now a much better bill and I can see the effort of the authors and the proponents. So it’s been a good two weeks na pinaganda po natin itong bill. So it looks good at this point...and it looks much better,” he said.
Upon the instruction of Speaker Romualdez, the House committee on appropriations last Friday removed the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from the list of potential MIF contributors.
The two are pension funds--SSS for private sector employees and GSIS for government personnel. Their inclusion as MIF fund sources was by far, the most contentious part of the measure.
Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo, a vice chairperson of the appropriations committee, said the MIF would instead rely on dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).