House Speaker Martin Romualdez (File photo)

MANILA – House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Friday said the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) has adequate safeguards to make sure that “funds are invested properly.”

Romualdez made this assurance in his recorded video message to the participants of the Asia CEO Forum at the Manila Marriott Hotel.

“As far as the issue of possible misuse and abuse of the Fund, let me assure everyone that your House of Representatives is keenly aware of your concern. For this reason, we have seen fit to incorporate adequate safeguards in House Bill No. 6608 to ensure that the funds are invested properly. These safeguards are both proactive and punitive,” he said.

Romualdez said the MIF has proactive safety checks, including transparency provisions and the requirement to subject the books of accounts of the Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC), which will manage the fund, to three layers of audit by an internal auditor, an external auditor and the Commission on Audit.

The audits shall include an assessment of whether investments are made in compliance with the Santiago principles, a set of guidelines designed to promote good governance, accountability, transparency, prudent investment practices and a stable and open investment climate.

“If these pro-active provisions are not enough, House Bill No. 6608 also provides heavy penal provisions and criminal sanctions to hold accountable and punish any director, trustee, or corporate officer who is proven to have abused the management of the Maharlika Investment Fund,” he said.

The MIC’s operations, he said, will also be monitored by the Maharlika Investment Fund Joint Congressional Oversight Committee aside from the MIF documents that will be open to anyone who wishes to review them, including reports from three-layer audit.

There will be a tight selection process for the composition of the MIC management which will be made up of persons of good moral standing and reputation, of recognized probity and independence, with substantial experience and expertise in corporate governance and administration, investment in financial assets, and management of investments in the local and global markets.

A small portion of investible funds of the Land Bank, Development Bank of the Philippines and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas would be pooled and placed under the management of MIC as the initial capital which shall be the Maharlika Investment Fund.

The bill also identifies financial instruments where the fund could be used, including foreign currencies, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, Sukuk or Islamic bonds, mutual funds, joint ventures and commercial real estate and infrastructure projects.

MIC can only participate in government projects that are approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), ensuring that the MIF is used for purposes that support the socioeconomic development plan of the government.

He said any erring MIC official can be charged with malversation or plunder, the latter being a non-bailable offense, depending on the amount embezzled.

Romualdez said the mission of the House in pushing for the creation of MIF is clear: “to help resuscitate the pandemic-battered economy and make economic transformation the engine that will uplift the lives of our people.”

“From the swift passage of the General Appropriations Act of 2023 to the passage on third and final reading of important measures such as the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines Act, the Health Emergency Auxiliary Reinforcement Team Act, as well as the Maharlika Investment Fund proposal, to the move to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution – the welfare of the Filipino people and the economic development of the country is always the paramount consideration,” he said.

The House leader encouraged those who could contribute their input to improve the MIF bill and other pieces of legislation to make their ideas known and present their proposals.

“We at the House of Representatives do not claim monopoly on development solutions. If there is anyone who has more creative ideas on how to support national development, by all means, make them known,” he said.

He said the House “is more than happy and willing to receive these ideas, so that these may be refined and fine-tuned over the course of the legislative process.”

“Let us work together towards a brighter future for the Philippines. With unity of spirit, there is truly nothing we cannot do,” he added as he expressed confidence in every Filipino’s innate ability to find practical solutions to many of our problems. (PNA)