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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Senate ‘set to approve’ Maharlika bill — Zubiri

THE Senate is “set to approve” the Maharlika Investment Fund bill “next week,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Thursday, despite objections from the minority.

“Yes, the plan is to approve it by 2nd and 3rd reading next week. We are accommodating the last few members who want to interpellate on Monday then we can open the period of amendments immediately after,” said Zubiri in a message to reporters.

Congress adjourns sine die on June 2.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd said, however, that he will reject the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 2020 .

Zubiri and Pimenetel’s statements come, a day after President Ferdinand Marcos certified the bill as urgent.

The House of Representatives approved its version of the measure in December 2022.

“As a certified measure we can close and approve the bill in that same week. Hopefully the House can adopt our version which we improved with more safeguards in place to avoid possible misuse,” the Senate chief said.

Asked whether the SB 2020 can be approved before Congress adjourns on June 2, Sen. Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero said, “Unless the House adopts the Senate version sans bicam.”

“Per Sen[ator] Mark Villar the DoF (Department of Finance), BTr (Bureau of Treasury) have a lot of amendments which still have to be introduced as committee amendments. [I] Will await [a] clean copy [of the bill],” Escudero said in a text message.

But the Senate minority group will not support such plan.

“We will interpellate, deliver our contra speech, vote ‘no.’ Per rules contra speech is before amendments,” Pimentel said in a text message.

Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros is the other member of the opposition in the Senate.

On Wednesday, Zubiri invited the economic managers of the Marcos administration to attend the debate on the measure during hearing by the Senate banks and financial institutions committee, which Sen. Mark Villar, sponsor of the bill, heads.

They are Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Department of Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Medalla.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon has been present during the Senate floor debate to help Villar in defending the MIF bill.

During the plenary session, Villar answered clarificatory questions from his colleagues, including queries if the Maharlika Investment Fund and the Maharlika Investment Corporation are indeed necessary, among others.

“When you look at it from a whole-of-nation approach, it is deemed that there is a need to prime the economy at this time, especially given that we are recovering from Covid-19,” the deputy majority leader said.

“Primarily, our source of funding is through debt and the Maharlika [Investment Fund] will allow us to fund it through equity giving us additional fiscal space and improving the overall economic condition of our country,” Villar said.

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Author: Bernadette E. Tamayo,Javier Joe Ismael

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