House passes Maharlika on final reading as Marcos calls for bill's immediate enactment


Posted at Dec 15 2022 04:57 PM | Updated as of Dec 15 2022 07:41 PM

MANILA - The House of Representatives passed the Maharlika Investment Fund bill on third and final reading as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr certified the measure's "necessity." 

In a letter dated Dec. 14 but was presented to the House on Dec. 15 Thursday, Marcos called for the “immediate enactment” of House Bill 6608 which creates the MIF. 

The President said this was needed “in order to establish a sustainable national investment fund as a strategic mechanism for strengthening the investment activities of top performing government financial institutions and thus pump-prime economic growth and social development.”

The Senate must pass a counterpart bill for the measure to become law.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier also called on Marcos to certify the bill as urgent. 

Government economic managers have been pushing for the bill despite opposition from various sectors. 

The version of the MIF passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday will have two state banks–the Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Land Bank of the Philippines–initially providing a total of P75 billion pesos.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas profits, which the bill's authors estimate at P35 billion this year, will make up the balance.

The total is far smaller than an earlier version of the bill that envisioned a P275 billion fund, mostly capitalized by state-run pension funds GSIS and SSS.

The House abandoned that version in the face of public opposition.

Business groups, opposition leaders and other critics had warned the fund could deplete worker pensions and stoke corruption through reckless investment decisions.

The word "maharlika", meaning "nobility", is widely associated with Marcos's late father, who presided over widespread human rights abuses and corruption during his two decades in power.

The elder Marcos was ousted in 1986 but no one in the clan has been jailed.

Marcos Sr claimed to have led an anti-Japanese guerrilla unit called “Ang Mga Maharlika” during World War II, but he has been accused of lying about his war record.

"The Maharlika Investment Fund could be a magnet for corruption," opposition Congressman Edcel Lagman told the House in a debate this week as he fought to block the bill's passage.

Lagman said the fund, as passed by the House, would be "the smallest in the world".

He said much larger sovereign wealth funds in other countries were typically seeded by surplus revenues, such as windfall government profits from natural resources.

A National Scientist in Economics meanwhile cautioned against rushing the bill and cast doubts on the Philippines’ ability to run a sovereign wealth fund saying the country has weak rule of law. 

- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News and Agence France-Presse