Economic managers brief senators on Maharlika fund

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Economic managers brief senators on Maharlika fund
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri presides over a Senate session on January 23, 2023.
Release / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Economic managers briefed senators yesterday on the proposed multibillion-peso Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), a priority measure of the Marcos administration that is meeting some resistance in the Senate.

Details of the closed-door meeting, led by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, were not yet available as of last night, but it came just as the Senate committee on banks and financial institutions chaired by Sen. Mark Villar was preparing to hold its first hearing on the MIF Bill.

Villar filed a Senate counterpart of bill approved in the House of Representatives last December.

With Diokno at the Senate briefing were Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Felipe Medalla.

The MIF bill was among the issues discussed when President Marcos met with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez last week. Zubiri thanked Marcos for showing understanding that the measure cannot be rushed in his chamber.

The MIF bill saw three iterations since the President sought its establishment last year owing to concerns on the sourcing of the seed fund and safeguards against possible misuse and mismanagement.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda earlier disclosed that revisions to the House version had already been made, including removing income from the BSP and other government financial institutions as source of seed funding.

The Senate may have to make its own revisions when the bicameral conference committee convenes to reconcile conflicting provisions of the two versions of the MIF bill.

Meanwhile, senators said yesterday they are amenable to proposals to sell idle government assets to fund the MIF.

Zubiri said among the possible source of funding would be the sale of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Sen. Grace Poe agreed, saying some government assets are “non performing or problematic, riddled by corruption and mismanaged, thus may be handled better by the private sector.”

“The sale however should be done transparently to the highest bidder. The buyers, credibility should be considered. The proceeds of the sale should be well accounted for and should directly go to the intended fund,” Poe said.

She cited suggestions, including one from former Senate president Franklin Drilon, for the privatization of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. She said this could raise as much as P300 billion. – Louise Maureen Simeon

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