After swiftly passing House, Maharlika fund gets quietly revamped

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
After swiftly passing House, Maharlika fund gets quietly revamped
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 25, 2022.
Aaron Favila via AFP / pool

MANILA, Philippines — The controversial bill that seeks to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund was quietly “re-engineered” after it swiftly passed the House of Representatives in December 2022.

Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay) said Friday over ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Headstart” that he was among the four people commissioned to rewrite the Maharlika fund bill. He refused to disclose who tapped them to give the measure a facelift and who else was involved.

Salceda said that among the changes that are being pushed was for the Maharlika fund to only involve the securitization of around P44.33 billion in annual dividends from government corporations.

“These are dividends from [government owned and controlled corporations,] so by its nature they are already surpluses,” he said.

Also proposed was the exclusion of dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, which the House included as capital for the Maharlika fund in the bill that it passed.

Salceda added that the Maharlika fund will undergo an initial public offering, after which it will be listed in the local bourse while the government will retain less than 50% ownership and the rest will be in the hands of the private sector.

“It’s no longer a GOCC. It will essentially be another listed company in the Philippine stock market,” Salceda said. “I think it will be more private-led, but definitely it will have public guidance, government guidance.”

It is not yet clear how these proposed changes would be incorporated into the bill, given that the House has passed its version of the Maharlika fund before Congress went on a break for the holidays.

But Salceda told Philstar.com in a text message that these proposed amendments will be introduced once the Maharlika fund bill is filed in the Senate.

'Crony capitalism'

In the TV interview, Salceda said the earlier version of the bill “would not have passed,” before quickly backtracking.

Ahead of making the amendments formal, the lawmaker said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has presented this version of the Maharlika fund at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the proposed changes to the Maharlika fund “makes it worse.”

“Private profit backed up by state. Crony capitalism will be the ending,” Pimentel told Philstar.com in a text message.

Pimentel had earlier warned against a “soft launch” of the Maharlika fund at Davos, saying that this may be a move to tie the hands of the upper house to passing the measure which he said is prone to abuse and corruption.

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