MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Friday said the House of Representatives has increased the amount earmarked from the profits of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) for social welfare purposes or subsidies (ayuda) from 20 percent to 25 percent as proposed by an opposition lawmaker.
“We have increased the contributions of the profits of the Maharlika Investment Fund to social welfare fund that the government can utilize to provide assistance to those who need it the most. This amendment was proposed by the Makabayan bloc, which we accepted,” Romualdez said.
The House on Thursday approved House Bill No. 6608, which would create the MIF, with an overwhelming 279 votes in favor and six against, after the bill was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
The MIF was envisioned as an effective vehicle to execute and sustain high-impact infrastructure projects, urban and rural development, agricultural support, and other programs that would generate more income and economic activities.
In his message to fellow lawmakers before the House adjourned for the Christmas break, Romualdez noted that the approval of HB 6608 came after public consultations and exhaustive deliberations with agencies and stakeholders were made at the committee level.
“At the plenary, several interpellators, and numerous hours of session were devoted to informative debates and manifestations discussing lengthily the nature, scope, and benefits of the proposed measure,” he said.
HB 6608 originally allocated 20 percent of the profits from MIF for social welfare purposes.
ACT party-list Rep. France Castro proposed an amendment to increase the amount to 30 percent until a compromise was eventually reached to peg the increase at 25 percent.
Under the approved version of HB 6608, at least 25 percent of the net profits of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) -- the independent body that would manage the MIF -- shall be directly distributed in the form of poverty and subsistence subsidies to families falling below the poverty threshold as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority, in lieu of taxes and dividend remittance to the national government.
The remainder of MIC’s net profits shall be remitted to the national government, to be earmarked for social welfare programs and projects, excluding infrastructure projects.
Aside from increasing social welfare’s share in the profits of MIC, Castro also proposed other amendments that were accepted by the majority.
One such proposal is a provision to ensure government-owned and controlled corporations, like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), and Home Development Mutual Fund, would not be required to contribute their funds to the MIF.
The sponsors agreed to accept Castro’s proposed amendments to prohibit the MIC from investing in activities or entities with a record of human rights violations, or relating to the production of weapons of war, as well as in corporations involved in activities that seriously degrade the environment.
Romuladez, however, noted that the opposition lawmakers later voted against the passage of HB 6608.
But even before the plenary debates on Monday, several party leaders voiced their support for the passage of the bill following amendments that removed the SSS and GSIS as mandatory sources of seed money.
In a rare move, House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Paul Daza (Samar 1st District), who earlier voiced concern against the measure, lauded the proponents of the measure for introducing such changes, saying it shows the lawmakers are listening to the people and that democracy is working.
In the end, 90 percent, or 282 out of the 312 House members, were officially named as co-authors of the measure.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said they will study and scrutinize the MIF during their break to prepare for hearings and debates when Congress resumes on Jan. 23.
Villanueva said in a statement that while he supports the idea of establishing a sovereign wealth fund, further discussions are needed to put up safeguards such as transparency and accountability and devise a plan that would pinpoint and clarify investment strategies and objectives.
However, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said in another statement that the MIF proposal gives the impression that “we need to speed up things and I hope this will not be the feeling in the Senate,” while fellow opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said it is “premature” as there are other more important things that should be looked into.
“The Maharlika fund will have extensive effects and ramifications not only to our generation but potentially to future generations of Filipinos. Hence this should not be rushed. Haste makes waste,” Pimentel said. (PNA)