Maharlika to bankroll Marcos infra projects
MANILA -The proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) is primed to help bankroll the Marcos administration’s pipeline of 194 infrastructure flagship projects, and the bill that establishes the MIF is hoped to be ratified in Congress as early as Thursday, according to Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman.
“Hopefully, if the period of interpellation at the floor will be ended today (May 29), we’ll have the bicameral conference by Tuesday or Wednesday, and have it (bill) ratified on Thursday (before Congress goes on recess next week),” Pangandaman said in a meeting with editors and reporters at the Inquirer Group.
She said the latest iteration of the MIF, as proposed, has seen major changes since this was first brought up in public discussions in late 2022.
Pangandaman cited as an example the exclusion of the pension funds—the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System—from a short list of entities that will be mandated to contribute to the seed capital of the MIF.
Still on the list are Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. as well as proceeds from the privatization of government assets and dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
“And then there’s much more safeguards now provided,” the budget chief said. “I think it would be more acceptable to everyone.”
By safeguards, Pangandaman meant that the MIF will answer to and be overseen by several groups, including an audit committee, advisory board and a Congressional oversight committee.
The MIF will also be scrutinized by the Commission on Audit, will be subject to the government procurement law, and will adhere to the internationally adopted Santiago Principles.
The Santiago reference relates to 24 internationally accepted principles and practices for sovereign wealth funds (SWF), which are designed to promote good governance, accountability, transparency and prudent investment practices while encouraging a more open dialogue and deeper understanding of SWF activities.
On the sidelines of the annual membership meeting of the Fintech Alliance of the Philippines, BSP Governor Felipe Medalla said he remained supportive of the MIF.
Medalla said “the bill as it is now is OK,” as it went through a long period of discussion on the proposed fund.
“For instance it is no longer a sovereign wealth fund. It is now more of a national development fund,” he said.
The MIF is now “an investment fund, I think, for targeted strategic objectives of the national government and maybe including (projects that would help address) climate change,” he added.
Last March, Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Develop unveiled the Neda Board-approved list of 194 Infrastructure Flagship Projects that cost a total of about P9 trillion.
Balisacan said the majority of these infrastructure flagship projects are in physical connectivity and water resources, which include projects in irrigation, water supply, and flood management.
The list also includes projects in digital connectivity, health, power and energy, agriculture, and other infrastructure.
Some of the new projects included in the list are the Panay Railway Project, Mindanao Railway Project III, North Long Haul Railway, San Mateo Railway, UP-PGH Diliman Project, the NAIA or Ninoy Aquino International Airport Rehabilitation Project, Ilocos Sur Transbasin Project, and the Metro Cebu Expressway.
Balisacan said these projects will adopt an optimal mix of financing from various development partners through official development assistance, the national government through general appropriations, and the private sector particularly public-private partnerships (PPPs).
On Monday, Pangandaman said it would be better to have the MIF invest in these projects rather than the government spending on them through the national budget.
This would add a push to the administration’s intention of strongly promoting the use of PPPs.