Chiz doubts current version of Maharlika bill will pass Senate


Posted at Feb 02 2023 01:26 PM | Updated as of Feb 02 2023 01:49 PM

MANILA — Sen. Francis Escudero on Thursday expressed doubts the current version of the bill creating the Maharlika Investment Fund would pass the Senate.

"I doubt it unless the economic managers get their acts together, come up with a common and unified stand," he told ANC's "Headstart".

A Senate panel on Wednesday started to scrutinize the proposed sovereign wealth fund, which aims to raise capital for big-ticket development projects.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has vowed the upper chamber would not rush discussions on the MIF, adding the measure would need further amendments.

The House of Representatives endorsed the proposed law in December but slashed its planned initial capital following public fears of corruption.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has called for a swift passage of the bill, filed by his son and a cousin, to enable the debt-laden government to earn extra funds to finance huge infrastructure projects.

"What I can guarantee perhaps on my end would be if it will pass whether in April or March or sometime thereafter, it will not be in the shape, size, color or form that it is right now," Escudero said.

The Senate version of the Maharlika Investment Fund will have 2 state banks—Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines—initially providing a total of P75 billion.

The Senate bill also proposed a 15-man advisory council and a third-party auditor that will review the utilization of the funds.

Escudero questioned the supposed disproportionate allocation of seats in the panel to the banks providing the seed capital.

"They want to adapt best corporate practices, so my question is, why not make the representation in the board proportional to the capital contribution of the entities forming this corporation?" he said.

Under the proposal, the board of directors of the Maharlika Investment Corporation will be composed of:

  • Finance secretary as chairperson
  • Chief Executive Officer of the Maharlika Investment Corporation
  • President of Landbank
  • President of the DBP
  • 6 regular members representing the contributors to the fund, with the seats distributed in proportion to their corresponding investments
  • 5 independent directors from the private sector, the academe, business sector and investment sector

Escudero also raised question on the return of investments of Landbank and DBP in the planned sovereign wealth fund.

The senator said the country's economic managers should have studied and refined the bill before proposing it.

"This bill is being pushed by the administration. The President himself has endorsed it. The Speaker has endorsed it," Escudero said.

"I would presume that they should have studied it [and] refined it before it was proposed to the Senate and the House but apparently that's not the case," he added.

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

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— With a report from Agence France-Presse