NATIONAL Treasurer Rosalia de Leon vouched on Saturday, June 3, 2023, for the importance of the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), especially in generating more funds to accelerate the implementation of infrastructure programs of the National Government.

In a press briefing, De Leon said the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has identified 194 infrastructure projects with a total worth of P9 trillion.

These projects, according to Neda, are expected to stimulate economic activity, improve road congestion, provide better and safer road access, and promote the development of new growth centers.

“So, with this Maharlika Investment Fund, mas mapapadali po natin at mas mapapabilis po natin ang pag-implement ng mga infrastructure projects na ito sa tulong na rin po ng ating private sector,” De Leon said.

(So, with this Maharlika Investment Fund, we can make the implementation of these infrastructure projects easier and faster with the help of our private sector.)

“Ito rin po, magiging isang vehicle po ito para makapag-attract po tayo ng mga other funds from offshore, from the international funding community, dahil they can invest into this fund na mapupunta naman po sa mga priority projects ng ating administrasyon,” she added.

(This will also serve as a vehicle to attract other funds from offshore, from the international funding community, because they can invest in this fund, which will then be directed towards the priority projects of our administration.)

De Leon said the concept of a sovereign wealth fund has already evolved over the years, noting that not only is excess income being used, but also other funding mechanisms are being utilized to attract inflows and encourage private capital to co-invest in domestic and national government investment funding sources.

Under the proposed MIF bill, which is now awaiting the signature of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the seed capital of the MIF will be sourced from the Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) (P50 billion), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) (P25 billion), and the National Government (P50 billion).

The contribution from the National Government will come from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) total declared dividends, the National Government's share from the income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), properties, real and personal identified by the Department of Finance-Privatization and Management Office and other sources such as royalties and/or special assessments.

De Leon also allayed fears of critics that the MIF would eventually deplete the funds intended for loans to the agriculture and non-agriculture sectors and various industries, as the initial investment would be sourced from government financial institutions such as Land Bank, DBP and BSP.

“Iyon pong Land Bank mayroon po silang about P1.3 trillion na investible funds. Iyon pong ibibigay nila sa MIF na P50 billion. Wala pa pong mga three percent po iyon. So, malaki pa po ang pwedeng magamit ng Land Bank to be able to cater to the requirements po ng ating agricultural sector na ating mga farmers and fisherfolks,” she said.

(The Land Bank has around P1.3 trillion of investible funds. The amount they will allocate to the MIF is P50 billion, which is less than three percent. So, Land Bank still has a significant amount that can be used to cater to the requirements of our agricultural sector, including our farmers and fisherfolk.)

“Sa DBP naman po, P25 billion – that’s also just about 2.7 percent of their 850 billion investible funds. So, again marami pa pong pondo that would be available para po tugunan ang mga pangangailangan po ng ating industriya, ng ating mga businessmen, ng ating private sector...even our MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) para po matugunan again ang kanilang mga pangangailangan,” De Leon added.

(For DBP, on the other hand, the P25 billion is just about 2.7 percent of their P850 billion investible funds. So, again, there is still a significant amount of funds available to address the needs of our industries, businessmen, private sector, and even our MSMEs to meet their requirements.)

For the BSP, De Leon said it would be contributing its government-declared dividends to the MIF for the first two years.

De Leon expressed confidence that the proposed measure, passed by the upper and lower chambers of Congress last week, has ample safeguards against graft and corruption, such as the conduct of regular audits.

She noted that there will be an external auditor who will also examine the use of the funds in accordance with the rules and regulations governing the investments, while Congress will also establish an oversight committee to monitor the MIF.

“Bawat section po dito sa ating (panukalang) batas, it all pertains sa mga safeguards to make sure na pinoprotektahan nga po ang mga pondo ng bayan para nang sa gayon, it would be directed towards the objectives why the fund was also setup,” said De Leon.

(Each section in this proposed law pertains to the safeguards to ensure the protection of the public funds so that they can be directed towards the objectives for which the fund was established.) (SunStar Philippines)