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MIF bill gets Senate nod

May 31, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 112 views

MAHARLIKA Investment Fund (MIF) Bill, otherwise known as Senate Bill (SB) No. 2020, has been approved by the Senate during the marathon session early morning Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

The bill was approved on third and final reading, with a total of 19 senators voting in favor of the MIF and one abstention.

The MIF is a sovereign wealth fund that will be used to invest in a wide range of assets, including foreign currencies, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, commercial real estate, and infrastructure projects. The fund is expected to generate income for the government and help promote economic and development.

Senator Mark Villar, an author of SB 2020, earlier said the MIF has been under careful studies, analyzed, and scrutinized. Some revisions were also made, and added more “safeguards” to ensure that the version will benefit the Filipino people, he said.

Villar also cited “numerous benefits” that the country will attain once the MIF bill is passed into law.

“Actually, there are a lot of benefits that can get from the MIF. First, it would create more job opportunities for Filipinos. Secondly, we will promote economic growth since better infrastructure leads to more efficient transportation, communication, and other systems. Also, this will be a vehicle to reduce poverty; this would help the government manage its budget and mitigate fiscal pressures during economic downturns as it acts as a safety net for the country,” Villar explained.

The approved measure was a consolidation of Villar’s SB 1670 and Sen. Raffy Tulfo’s SB 1814.

No less President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. had certified the measure as urgent, prompting Congress to forgo the usual three-day interval between the second and third reading as required in the 1987 Constitution.

Senator Robinhood Padilla, who voted in favor of MIF, pushed for a “Filipino translation” of the measure and its related documents.

He also cited Sec. 6, Art. 14 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication as a language of instruction in the educational system.

The Filipino translation of the Act will also be published in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who also voted in favor of the said bill, said it is important to strike a balance between putting up safeguard provisions and ensuring that the law is “not too restricted to succeed.”

Any increase in capitalization of the Maharlika Investment Corporation, which will manage the MIF, will also be subject to Congress’ approval.

While the MIC Board of Directors will be composed of the Secretary of Finance as chairperson in an ex-officio capacity, the president and CEO (chief executive officer) of the Development Bank of the Philippines, the CEO of the Land Bank of the Philippines, at least two regular directors and three independent directors from private sectors with competence.

Indicated in the measure is the right of the Chief Executive to appoint regular directors upon the recommendation of the advisory board for a term of three years, and should there will be some changes like resignation or removal, the appointment to any vacancy shall only be for the unexpired term of the predecessor in accordance with the regular procedure of nomination.

The proposed bill clearly stated that any person, natural or judicial, who allows being a part of any fraud or committing graft and corrupt practices of other employees of the MIC, will be held liable from P1 million to P5 million perpetual disqualifications from public office and imprisonment of six years.

Aside from Zubiri, Padilla, and Cayetano, other senators who voted in favor of the passage of the controversial measure include Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva, Pia Cayetano, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Tolentino, and Grace Poe.

Sen. Nancy Binay abstained, while Sen. Risa Hontiveros did not vote in favor of MIF. Senators Imee Marcos, Francis Chiz Escudero, and Aquilino Koko Pimentel were not present in the voting.

The Bicameral Committee met at 11:00 a.m. to reconcile the “disagreeing provisions” between the Senate and the House of Representatives for which Congress can transmit the bill right away for the signing of the Chief Executive.

Both Chambers of Congress will be formed to monitor and do the proper evaluation in the final implementation of the proposed law.

Senate banned investments in the proposed MIF from the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation), Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).

The MIF-Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) will be co-chaired by chairpersons of the House Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies.