Villar: Give MIF law a chance

Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Villar: Give MIF law a chance
Senator Mark Villar answers media questions on the recently signed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) during the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay on July 19, 2023.
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The newly enacted Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) should be given a chance to work, according to its principal author Sen. Mark Villar, who assured critics of its potential to generate 350,000 jobs and boost the overall economy.

“Let’s give this law a chance. Overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress, it was endorsed by the President. Let’s just work for the success of the Maharlika,” Villar said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum yesterday.

“Let’s just support it, let’s do everything to make it a success because if it’s successful, that will be our success for our nation and for our economy,” the chair of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies said.

“If there is investment, jobs will be generated,” he said, citing an analysis by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) showing additional 350,000 jobs as possible offshoot of MIF investments.

“That’s a big thing, especially now we have COVID that hit many industries. It’s a big thing to speed up the recovery of the economy,” Villar pointed out.

President Marcos on Tuesday signed the controversial MIF bill into law. Marcos had certified the bill as urgent for both chambers of Congress. The controversial MIF breezed through the legislative branch in record speed despite concerns raised by opposition lawmakers and some quarters.

“What’s important is the concept is clear – that the investable funds of the government will be used for projects that can generate income for the government,” he explained.

“I am from the infrastructure sector, and I have seen many projects that cannot be funded because their funds are limited. They (the government) still need to borrow from other countries. So we can invest our investable funds to generate income and contribute to socio-economy of the country,” added Villar, whose family is one of the biggest real estate developers.

Asked if he has anyone in mind to head the first team to manage the MIF, Villar replied: “There are many good people in the financial industry but they are not available.”

He added: “I am not among those who will vet. If my opinion is asked, I will give my opinion.”

He said the MIF chief executive officer should be an expert in finance and appointed by the President, but whose appointment must go through an advisory board. He added that an MIF manager with outstanding skills and “impeccable reputation” does not need a learning curve as he can perform his or her task right away.

To comprise the MIF board, he said, are people from the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines, two full-time directors, three independent directors and the secretary of the Department of Finance in an ex officio capacity.

Villar assured the public that a congressional oversight committee as well as internal and external auditors would make sure there would be no misuse of public funds in the MIF.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate version of the MIF includes two pages of penalties for unlawful use of the fund.

“Even the selection process for the individuals that will be part of the board and head of the Maharlika Investment Fund, we put so many safeguards which those applying to be part of the management will be like applying for a job or a position in the Supreme Court that you have to go through a fine-toothed comb and hole of a needle,” Zubiri said.

He said President Marcos and the economic team are considering expanding their vetting process for people to manage the fund to include Filipino experts abroad, “those working in the fund management groups.” — Bella Cariaso, Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Emmanuel Tupas

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