Senate ‘eager’ to discuss MIF law

Marcos and his WEF delegation — including Villar — wrapped up their five-day trip to Davos on Saturday

The Senate has already received the counterpart measure of the controversial Maharlika Investment Funds bill through Senator Mark Villar, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“I think he (Villar) already filed it last week. He filed it last week and I hope that he calls in the soonest possible time for a committee hearing to discuss it with the members of the Senate,” Zubiri said in a virtual interview with reporters on Saturday.

He expressed confidence in Villar, who was part of the delegation of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his inaugural participation in the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, that he would be able to defend the bill once he sponsored it in the plenary.

“He was with the president during his presidential trips and visits abroad, and they tackled the Maharlika Funds,” Zubiri said.

“So, I think he is well adapt and well-versed on the needs of the Maharlika fund and we are eager to ask him about his plans for this wealth fund. What are the amendments needed to improve this measure?” he added.

The Senate President issued the remarks after Marcos pitched the MIF to international business and government leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

The President and his WEF delegation — including Villar — wrapped up their five-day trip to Davos on Saturday.

The House of Representatives approved the third and final reading of House Bill 6608 or the proposed MIF bill before adjourning for the Christmas break while its counterpart, the Senate, has yet to tackle the bill.

Zubiri said the “ball” is in Villar’s court now as he chairs the Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions.

“So, the ball is in the court of Senator Mark Villar, if I were him I will call for a committee hearing at the soonest possible time,” said the Senate President.

“We cannot approve this in just one committee hearing only. So if I were him, I will set up a committee hearing as soon as possible,” he added.

Zubiri also stressed that he was open to the idea of a “re-engineered” version of the MIF, which eyes an initial public offering as a new source of funding.

“It is good because you can raise billions of pesos, billions of dollars with that type of IPO,” he said.

According to Albay Representative Joey Salceda, one of the proponents of the measure, he and three other lawmakers were commissioned during the holidays to do a major facelift on the proposed MIF bill.

Instead of tapping the dividends of government-owned and controlled corporations as source initial funds, the proposed fund would now rely on an IPO at the Philippine Stock Exchange, according to the lawmaker.

Meanwhile, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez called for the immediate legislation of the MIF, saying it would help solve many of the country’s headaches like the perennial high cost of electricity and fuel.

“Filipinos cannot wait. We have to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power, the cost of oil,” Romualdez said in an interview with Manila-based reporters in Zurich, Switzerland on the tail end of their WEF trip.

“We have to bring in developmental projects, not just infrastructure. We have to bring agricultural projects in, we have to make sure there’s food security. We cannot wait,” he added.

The Speake urged his fellow lawmakers in the Senate to tackle the proposed measure, stressing that the House of Representatives has already done its part.

“We passed it in the House. With all due respect, it’s been already filed in the Senate. For all those senators who may have their contrary thoughts, just read the bill and deliberate it in the Senate and let’s take it from there,” he said.

Romualdez stressed that the Chief Executive would immediately sign the measure once submitted to his office.

“President Marcos will not sit on his hands. He has no time to just waste time. I mean, he needs to lead the country and that’s why he was voted for by over 31 million people and now he leads over a hundred. So we all have to work double time,” Romualdez said.

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