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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Senators nix minority moves to stall Maharlika fund vote

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THE Senate minority on Tuesday con-tinued to raise serious questions about the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill that the chamber is expected to pass this week, this time seeking to transfer referral of the measure to the government corporations committee, instead of the banks panel which sponsored it.

The body voted 16-2, however, to reject the motion of Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who earlier delivered on the floor a lengthy speech, at the start of the general debates period, detailing the perils of rushing passage of the MIF that he earlier called “unsalvageable” in its present form.

Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, for her part, supported Pimentel’s move to question anew the Palace certification of the bill as urgent, which they said did not meet the constitutional requirements for executive certifications because it did not specify a calamity or national emergency to warrant this. A certification allows Congress to vote on second and third reading—on the same day—a certified measure, as an exception to the constitutional requirement of a three-day gap between such votes.

Also at the debates, Sen. Chiz Escudero said the three-day document submitted to senators by the Bureau of Treasury cannot be considered to meet the required “test of economic viability” for a measure creating a new GOCC such as the Maharlika Investment Corp.

Earlier, Pimentel stressed the need to include an iron-clad provision that guarantees the pension funds will not be touched or compromised in the MIF bill.

“Our workers’ hard-earned pension should be shielded from any adverse implications that could arise from the establishment of MIF,” he added. “Unfortunately, the threat that MIF would dip its hands into retirees’ pension funds is still very much alive,” he said.

Earlier versions of the measure sought to tap into the funds managed by the country’s top social insurance institutions: the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) as the source for the initial capital of Maharlika.

When the proposal received a backlash even from executives of GSIS and SSS, the provision was removed.

However, Pimentel warned, “While they removed the forced contribution from GSIS and SSS, the current version of MIF under consideration by the Senate would allow these social insurance institutions to invest in Maharlika voluntarily as long as their boards agree.”

Earlier, Senator Mark Villar, Banking committee chairman and chief sponsor of MIF, cited the benefits of the Maharlika Investment Fund.

“We have carefully studied and analyzed the MIF bill. We made revisions and added more safeguards to ensure that the version will benefit the Filipino people,” Villar said.

He also cited benefits to the country once the MIF bill is passed into law.

“Actually, there are a lot of benefits that we can get from the MIF. First, it would create more jobs, more infrastructure projects mean 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.

He pointed out that the MIF may be used to invest on sectors such as agriculture and energy.

Other benefits from the Maharlika Investment Fund would include, he said, capital accumulation, sustainable development, economic stability, financial sustainability, foreign investments and reduction of foreign debt.

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