Senators want PBBM’s economic team to present full business plan on Maharlika fund

Senators on Wednesday, February 15 pressed state economic managers to provide the Senate more details on all the projects that would be funded by the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill.

This, after senators noted the lack of business plan the Marcos administration has to pursue the MIF during the second hearing of the Senate banks committee on the controversial bill.

Sen. Nancy Binay pointed this out when she asked National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, if the government has already come up with a business plan to pursue the MIF.

Yet De Leon, who is representing the economic team, told Binay they will come up with a business plan “eventually.”

“We’re working on the legislation and part of the legislation is that there would be an investment strategy as well as risk management strategy...but all of the projects that will be funded by the Maharlika Fund would be approved by NEDA (National Economic Development Authority),” De Leon said at the hearing.

“So NEDA has already a pipeline of all these projects that would be financed by the Maharlika," she added.

But this did not sit well with Binay who pointed out it would be easier for the government to convince lawmakers to pass the MIF bill if they could provide them with the business plan.

“How can you envision a return when you don’t even know what is the specific developmental plan?” Binay asked.

“Offhand, can you cite one developmental project that you can say is the MIF’s potential first project?” she pointed out.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian echoed Binay’s concerns saying lawmakers would be comforted if they will see where the fund would be invested.

Gatchalian particularly noted the lack of details as to how the MIF would be invested in, considering that a "super risk-averse" Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) is set to contribute P50-billion to its initial capital.

He noted that LBP's fund mostly consisted of deposits from local government units (LGUs), government employees and the agriculture sector.

“And these funds are meant to be safeguarded by making wise investments," Gatchalian pointed out.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for his part, said the Senate should not allow the MIF measure to pass in its current form warning there are so many flaws in the bill.

“It’s a very disappointing administrative measure. The assumption is, if it is an administrative measure, it is backed up by all the best lawyers and bill drafters of the administration. And yet this is the result,” Pimentel said as he noted the gaps in the measure.

While the national treasurer assured the Senate panel that there is a list of allowable investments under the MIF, Pimentel pointed out one provision allows “all other investments as may be decided by the Board.”

Pimentel noted the MIF measure also assures of a two percent cap on administration and operation expenses, but Sec. 17 of the bill allows additional expenses.

This in effect, cancels the two percent cap on administrative expenditures, the Senate minority leader pointed out.

“We hear news about the President’s report that the Japanese investors are excited to invest in the Maharlika fund. Where is the mechanism of the current bill? How do they invest? It is not stated there,” Pimentel noted.

“This Maharlika Investment Corp. can directly give assistance. What is the meaning of directly? Another Department of Social Welfare and Development? What are we doing here?” he lamented.

Senator Mark Villar, chairman of the Senate banks panel, said they have already asked the Department of Finance (DOF) to provide the Senate the list of specific projects that would be funded by the MIF.