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House approves Maharlika bill

December 15, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 384 views

90% of House members named co-authors

THE House of Representatives on Thursday night approved the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill which had earned the solid support of 90 percent or 282 out of the 312 members of the chamber who were officially named as co-authors of the measure.

Voting 279 against six, the House approved House Bill (HB) No. 6608 on third and final reading, which was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.

Exhaustive floor deliberations on the measure including nearly three hours of interpellation conducted Wednesday night by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman led to the fine-tuning of the provisions, which even former critics acknowledged to have resulted in a “much better and improved version” of the bill.

Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, the principal author of the bill, said the amendments introduced to the measure, especially the inclusion of more safeguards against possible abuse and fraud, “is our way of addressing the concerns of our people.”

“The proposed sovereign wealth fund will help President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. keep the country on the high-growth path. We want to assure the public that the management of the fund will follow best practices and the principles of transparency and accountability,” he said.

He said the bill, as finalized, would insulate the MIF from political influence.

As revised, the proposed law lists the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as MIF contributors.

Their initial contributions are P50 billion for Land Bank, P25 billion for and 100 percent of dividends the BSP will give the national government.

Pagcor’s share will be 10 percent of gross gaming revenues.

Upon the Speaker’s instruction, the House has removed the Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System, which are pension funds for the private sector and government workers, from the list of contributors due to concerns raised by their members.

The bill creates the Maharlika Investment Fund Corp., which will have a board of directors that would manage the fund. The board will be chaired by the secretary of finance, with the corporation’s chief executive officer, Land Bank president, DBP president, seven members to be nominated by MIF contributors commensurate to their contributions, and four independent directors.

The number of independent directors on the board was increased from two to four to widen private sector representation. These directors should have no conflict of interest in relation to the fund.

Operational expenses of the corporation shall not exceed two percent of the funds managed.

The MIF Corp. would have an advisory body composed of the secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, and the National Treasurer.

The body’s tasks include advising and assisting the board of directors in formulating general policies on investment and risk management.

The corporation would have an internal and an external auditor, aside from being subjected to examination by the Commission on Audit.

The bill lists “allowable investments,” like foreign currencies, metals, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, equities, real estate, infrastructure projects, loans and guarantees, and joint ventures or co-investments.

The measure prescribes a graduated scheme of fines as penalty for various offenses such as internal auditor collusion, acting as intermediaries for graft and corrupt practices and engaging in graft and corrupt acts, ranging from P80,000 to P5 million.

Violations of any of the other provisions of the law or its amendments not otherwise specifically penalized therein shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 6 years, but not more than 20 years, and by a fine of not less than P1 million to P3 million but not more than twice the value of the monetary instrument or property involved in the offense.

The proposed law mandates the National Treasurer, in consultation with the founding government financial institutions, to issue implementing rules and regulations.