Says wealth fund to help solve ‘perennial headaches’ like high prices
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez on Sunday underscored the urgency of establishing the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), saying it would help solve many of the country’s headaches like the perennial high cost of electricity and fuel.
“Filipinos cannot wait. We have to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power, the cost of oil,” he said.
“We have to bring in developmental projects, not just infrastructure.
We have to bring agricultural projects in, we have to make sure there’s food security. We cannot wait,” he added.
Romualdez, Leyte’s 1st District representative, spoke to Manila-based reporters in Zurich, Switzerland on the tail end of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s trip to Davos to attend the 2023 meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he introduced the MIF to participants there.
“We passed it in the House. With all due respect it’s been already filed in the Senate,” Romualdez said. “For all those senators who may have their contrary thoughts, just read the bill and deliberate it in the Senate and let’s take it from there,” he said.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri asked Senator Mark Villar to call for a hearing on the MIF and said he expects the bill to pass on final reading after the Holy Week.
“So, the ball is in his (Villar’s) court as chairman of the committee on banks and financial institutions,” said Zubiri in a radio interview.
He said Villar, who was with the President on his trip to Davos, was well versed on the need for the MIF.
But Senate Minority Leader Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the latest amendments to the proposed law creating the MIF showed that the administration and the lawmakers pushing for it did not conduct enough research.
He said brainstorming on a very controversial proposal like a sovereign wealth fund should have been done before the announcement of the plan to the public.
The opposition senator noted that it is now obvious that the country’s economic managers and their allies in the House have not done the necessary foundational research and hard work.
“This is not mentioned in the SONA, and not on the list of LEDAC priorities,” he added, referring to the President’s State of the Nation Address and the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council.
“So, where is this coming from? Who thought about this?” Pimentel said.
The MIF bill was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading last Dec. 15, 2022.
Both houses of Congress are set to resume sessions on Monday and adjourn again on March 24 or before Holy Week. Sessions will then resume on May 8 and run until June 2.
Before they take their break on March 24, Zubiri said he sees the passage of the MIF bill at the committee level.
He also suggested the immediate conduct of hearings on the bill, which was certified as urgent by the President.
Zubiri said Villar already filed a counterpart bill last week, and said it was identical to the version passed by the House, though he did not rule out amendments.
Zubiri said the Senate cannot snub the President’s push for a sovereign wealth fund after the chief executive promoted the proposed MIF at the recently concluded WEF in Davos, Switzerland.
However, safeguards must be put in place to prevent corruption, he added.
The President on Friday said he had no hand in the revision of the House-approved version of the MIF bill. He also assured business executives at the WEF that the fund would be run “professionally and properly.”