Gov’t should plug loopholes, clarify purpose of Maharlika fund—senators

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero urged the Marcos government to address the “many gaps and loopholes” in the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) law and clarify its purpose to the Filipino people.

Escudero said the MIF bill, in its current form, needs further amendments to strengthen its purpose as well as to provide adequate safeguards to prevent it from being abused.

“It is possible that there is still lack of study because this is the first time we are doing this. But in any event, Malacañang should not rush its passage because they are not prepared and it’s wrong for them to push the Senate to rush the passage of this bill at the soonest time possible,” Escudero said in an interview on Wednesday, February 1.

During the Senate Committee on Banks’ hearing on the bill, Escudero questioned the provision in the bill that gives the proposed Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC), which will manage the wealth fund, vast exemptions from Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

He also expressed concern over the composition of the MIC Board of Directors whose nominations will be approved by an advisory board that will be created under the proposed MIC.

The senator said those who sit on the MIC board should go through the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GCG).

On the other hand, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said the government should consider an infrastructure investment fund as an alternative to the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) to help finance future economic development in the country.

Cayetano said it would be best for Filipinos to support and invest on a project that they are interested in.

“With that, you have the same result as the Maharlika Investment Fund with safeguards,” Cayetano said as the Senate began deliberations on the proposed MIF bills on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

Infrastructure projects like skyways and highways that have been making money for their investors can be a good start.

“So far wala pa akong nakikitang nalugi sa mga projects na ganyan (I haven’t seen anyone lose money from these kind of projects),” he said, adding the government can choose to invest in these rather than in overseas opportunities.

Since many sectors have lodged criticisms against the MIF, Cayetano said it is important that the Senate take note of the people’s sentiments on the controversial bill during its committee deliberations.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to discuss on this issue. On stock market, for example, the sentiments of people can cause a rise and fall,” he said.

He noted the government is bullish on the MIF but there are more negative sentiments.

“Kahit maganda ang programa, marami pa ring nagdududa kung ano talaga ang intentions nito (Even if the program is good, many people are still doubting on what the real intention of the bill is),” Cayetano pointed out.

“In the long term, let's just try to make more opportunities for all Filipinos and the private sector,” he said.