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Social welfare receives a larger portion of Maharlika Fund profits.

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Speaker Martin Romualdez said on Friday that the House of Representatives had adopted a proposal from an opposition politician to raise from 20% to 25% the portion of the Maharlika Investment Fund’s (MIF) income set aside for social welfare or subsidies (ayuda).

“We have boosted the Maharlika Investment Fund’s profits donations to the social welfare fund, which the government can use to help those who need it most. We agreed to the Makabayan bloc’s amended proposal, Romualdez stated.

House Bill No. 6608, which will establish the MIF, was approved by the House on Thursday with a resounding 279 votes in favor and six against after being deemed urgent by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

The MIF was intended to be a powerful tool for carrying out and maintaining high-impact infrastructure projects, urban and rural development, agricultural support, and other initiatives that would increase revenue and economic activity.

Before the House broke for the holidays, Romualdez wrote a memo to his fellow lawmakers in which he explained that HB 6608 had been approved following extensive committee-level deliberations with agencies and stakeholders.

He added that during the plenary, “many interpolators and several hours of session were devoted to enlightening debates and manifestations debating lengthily the nature, scope, and benefits of the proposed act.”

20 percent of the MIF profits were initially designated by HB 6608 for social welfare purposes.

Prior to an agreement being struck to set the increase at 25%, Rep. France Castro of the ACT party list submitted an amendment to raise the percentage to 30%.

According to the version of HB 6608 that was approved, at least 25% of the net profits of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC), the independent organization that would oversee the MIF, shall be given directly to families that are below the poverty line as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority, in place of taxes and dividend payments to the national government.

The remaining net profits of MIC shall be transferred to the national government for use in social welfare initiatives and programs, excluding those related to infrastructure.

Castro also put up other changes that were approved by the majority in addition to raising social welfare’s percentage of MIC profits.

One such plan would ensure that organizations owned and managed by the government, such as the Social Security System, the Government Service Insurance System, and the Home Development Mutual Fund, would not be compelled to contribute money to the MIF.

Amendments

The sponsors agreed to accept Castro’s suggested revisions to bar the MIC from funding businesses or organizations with a history of violating human rights, those engaged in the manufacture of weapons of war, as well as those engaged in activities that gravely harm the environment.

Romuladez did point out, however, that the opposition MPs later abstained from the vote to pass HB 6608.

However, numerous party leaders expressed their support for the bill’s passing even before the plenary debates on Monday, after revisions that removed the SSS and GSIS as required sources of seed money.

In an unusual move, House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Paul Daza (Samar 1st District), who had previously expressed opposition to the measure, praised the supporters of the measure for making these changes, saying it demonstrated that lawmakers were paying attention to the public and that democracy was functioning.

In the end, 282 of the 312 House members who were present were credited as co-authors of the bill, or 90%.

Further examination

In order to get ready for hearings and debates when Congress reconvenes on January 23, the majority leader of the Senate, Joel Villanueva, said senators will examine and analyze the MIF over their vacation.

Villanueva stated in a statement that while he is in favor of the notion of creating a sovereign wealth fund, more debate is required to set up protections like accountability and transparency as well as to develop a strategy that would clearly define and identify investment goals.

The MIF proposal, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, “gives the impression that we need to speed things up, and I hope this will not be the feeling in the Senate,” while Risa Hontiveros, a senator from the opposition, called it “premature” and said there are other, more crucial issues that should be investigated.

“The Maharlika fund will have significant repercussions and ramifications on not just our generation but even maybe on Filipinos in the future. Consequently, you shouldn’t rush this. Pimentel stated that haste leads to waste.


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