Zubiri backs PBBM over non-extension of Covid-19 state of calamity

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Wednesday, January 11 threw his support for President Marcos' non-extension of the state of calamity due to Covid-19 in the Philippines, saying its declaration would affect the country's image to foreign tourists.

In place of the declaration, Zubiri said the Senate will heed the call of the President to work on the bills creating the Center for Disease Control and the Virology Institute of the Philippines.

These measures, the Senate leader said, would already cover the Department of Health's (DOH) request, particularly the special powers for Covid-19 vaccination.

Zubiri said the President does not want to tarnish the country's image by extending the state of calamity.

“He wants it rectified by legislation. So we are going to step up to that request of the president," he added.

"That is why we are focusing on the passage of the CDC and the Virology Institute,’’ he stressed.

In another development, Zubiri disclosed that the Senate would seek a briefing with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Finance (DOF) regarding the creation of the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).

"I invited (Finance) Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno and Secretary Menah Pangandaman to brief us on the first week of session. Ang plano namin (Our plan is that) by January 24 we will be briefed on this Mahalika Fund," he said.

Zubiri pointed out that they are "open to the idea" and they do not oppose the passage of the measure, but they want to be assured that the provisions of the bill would not be "prone to abuse, misuse or leakage which is corruption.”

The Senate chief said the Senate also wants to make sure that the funds would go to a "safe investment" as he cited the case of Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund.

Last December, the House of Representative approved on third and final reading the bill creating the MIF.

President Marcos has certified the measure as urgent, paving the way for its second and third reading approvals on the same day.

The MIF bill seeks to increase the investible funds of state-run financial institutions and ultimately increase public funds for nation-building.

The measure provides that the MIF would be funded by the investible resources of the Landbank of the Philippines (P50 billion), the Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion), and the dividends/profits of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The authors originally planned for the investible funds of the GSIS and the SSS to be included as sources for the proposed sovereign wealth fund's capital as well, an idea they later dropped.

Zubiri said he supports the removal of pension funds as source for the MIF creation.