MANILA — The administration's economic team commended the Senate for passing Senate Bill No. 2020 which would create the Maharlika Investment Fund.
The controversial sovereign fund bill was approved by the Senate, voting 19-1-1 at around 12:30 in the morning following 12 hours of deliberations.
"The economic team commends Senate President Senator Migz Zubiri and Senator Mark Villar for their thorough deliberation and prioritization of the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund Act," Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.
"The Senate leadership has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the bill we bring to the President reflects the administration's objective of creating a profitable and secure investment fund," he said.
President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr earlier certified the Maharlika bill as urgent despite criticism from other lawmakers, economists and other groups.
The bill has been revised several times due to controversial provisions such as the use of funds from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS.)
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the government has ensured that the bill is now "more acceptable."
“Napakadami nang safeguards— we have an audit committee, there’s an advisory board, and there’s a Congressional oversight committee. It adheres to the internationally-known Santiago principles, may COA (Commission on Audit) rin siya, may procurement law din po siya, so I think we have enough safeguards,” Pangandaman said.
“The major change from the first one they filed is the pension. Wala na po ‘yon, and then there’s much more safeguards now that they have provided. So I think it will be more acceptable to everyone,” she added.
Funding sources include the Landbank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines, privatization proceeds, and dividends from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Meanwhile, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said it may even help the country pay its debts. The Bureau of Treasury on Wednesday said the national government's outstanding debt reached P13.91 trillion in April.
Balisacan is also confident that fund managers would know "strategic areas" where they can invest in.
“We have so much need for capital so we will not run out of areas for investment,” Balisacan told reporters on the sidelines of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry forum.
An advocacy group noted that appointing "qualified" board members to the fund would add safeguards to its limited capital.
The DBM said the bill would be taken up by the bicameral conference committee on May 31 and is up for ratification by the House of Representatives and the Senate in the afternoon on the same day.
-- with reports from Jekki Pascual and Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News