Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday expressed hope that the House of Representatives will adopt the Senate version of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill, which he said would include more safeguards to avoid possible misuse.
While the House passed its version late last year, Zubiri said he hopes the Senate will approve its version by next week.
“We are accommodating the last few members who want to interpellate on Monday. Then we can open the period of amendments immediately after,” Zubiri said.
Because the bill was certified by President Marcos as urgent, the senators can approve it on second and third reading in the same week.
But Senator Francis Escudero said the proposed investment measure willnot pass before Congress adjourns next week unless the House adopts the Senate bill without going through a bicameral conference to iron out differences between the two bills.
Senator Mark Villar, principal author of the Senate version, said theDepartment of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Treasury have a lot of amendments that still have to be introduced as committee amendments.
“Will await a clean copy (of the bill),” he said.
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III saidhe will pose more questions during the interpellation period and deliver his “contra” speech before amendments.
On Wednesday night, during the interpellation of the bill, SenatorSherwin Gatchalian batted to exclude the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as a source of capital, noting that it has yet to achieve its full capitalization.
He said the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) are capable of providing the funds needed.
Escudero on the other hand, asked if the MIF will fund projects that cannot be funded by the General Appropriations Act. He also asked how the MIF could be profitable.
Villar answered that if a highway will be built, there can be a toll to earn money.
A former Public Works secretary, Villar said the agency spends hugeamounts on the operation and maintenance of roads. If roads are fundedby MIF, on the other hand, there will be no need to get funds from the General Appropriations Act, he said.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, said it was a positivedevelopment that the President certified as urgent the Senate version of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill.
He said this is the best possible time to establish the fund for two reasons.
“First, the Maharlika Investment Fund will strengthen the economy’sresilience through investment-led growth. This is especially pertinent now amid a possible slowdown in the world economy, which the IMF predicts will grow by a mere 2.8 percent this year,” he said.
He said while the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals are intact, the government must take advantage of robust instruments to cement the growth momentum through investments in strategic, economically viable, and high-impact infrastructure and other development projects.
“And second, this is an opportune time to take advantage of the ample liquidity of our government financial institutions, which have investible funds,” Diokno said.
In his letter to Zubiri on May 22, the President tagged as high priority Senate Bill 2020 or the proposed MIF bill.
Certifying the bill as urgent will allow the Senate to forgo thethree-day rule as mandated by the 1987 Constitution between the proposed measure’s second and third reading.
In the Senate version of the bill, the fund’s initial capital will come from the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, and from the privatization of government assets.
The proposed Maharlika Investment Corporation will also be allowed to issue bonds.
There will also be limitations in relation to investments in real estate, which shall be limited to major capital projects, as endorsed by the National Economic and Development Authority Board, to ensure that these are in line with the government’s socio-economicdevelopment programs.
Other changes are new provisions with the forms of joint ventures and co-investments on the issuance of bonds as well as to the board of directors to reflect nine permanent members, instead of the original 15.