MANILA, Philippines – After President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund bill urgent, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said on Thursday, May 25, that they are planning to pass the controversial measure by Friday, June 2, when the session adjourns.
“The plan is to approve it by second and third reading 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 told reporters.
“As a certified measure we can close and approve the bill on that same week. Hopefully the House can adopt our version which we improved with more safeguards in place to avoid possible misuse,” he added.
If the House of Representatives would adopt the Senate version, Congress can transmit it to Marcos without the need for a bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two versions.
In December 2022, Marcos also certified as urgent the House version of the Maharlika bill, which paved the way for its passage on second and third reading on the same day.
The proposed Maharlika Fund has sparked public outcry from pensioners, and faced a legal challenge before the Supreme Court. Being one of Marcos’ priority measures, the controversial bill may be passed before the end of May, according to Zubiri.
The Senate version of the bill provides that bonds issued under the proposed measure would not be guaranteed by the government – a safeguard pitched by Senator Mark Villar, to prevent a repeat of Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
Villar, who is the sponsor of the Senate bill establishing the sovereign wealth fund, said that any bonds or debt instruments issued by the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) would be secured by its own assets.
‘Too convoluted, vague’
In a statement on Thursday, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said that “immediate passage of the Maharlika Fund is too convoluted and vague.”
“It is still being pushed despite the fact that there is nothing left of the income from the Malampaya oil and gas fields, and the law that would have raised the government’s income from opening mines has not yet been passed,” she said.
“Since there is no excess wealth, they are now interested in taking the highly profitable funds of the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines. This would be a huge loss to farmers and small businesses that cannot afford to loan from private commercial banks,” Hontiveros added.
In a letter addressed to Zubiri, Marcos said “there is a compelling need for a sustainable national investment fund as a new growth catalyst to accelerate the implementation of strategic and high-impact large infrastructure projects that will stimulate economic activity and development.” – Rappler.com
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