Maharlika, what's in it for us?

AGAIN, it's about Maharlika, the fund, and not the fierce fighter we are witnessing these days slaying some dragons along the way. And the said legislative measure has taken the side of the state regardless of the current situation of Juan de la Cruz. The Marcos administration has not even taken the step to inform and educate the public on the need for it. Maharlika is the urgent matter for the administration than attending to stomach issues on basic commodities. Imagine onions and eggs and the leader was quoted as saying his tasks in the Department of Administration (DA) is not yet complete and only with the powers of a president can reform be pursued at the DA. Still, the reforms are not felt because the list of commodities is getting longer and not being solved.

No list of infrastructure projects has been made and made public save the basic statement that the fund will be used for it. In short, the quick solution to the deficit is to look for dividend income in GOCCs and put them in one basket as a "magnet to foreign investors." The Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) is being made under the 1987 Constitution where there is an urgent need to amend the following articles: Articles XII (National Economy and Patrimony), XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions), at the very least.

Since elected representatives passed House Bill 6608 per Committee Report 237 which the House of Representatives voted on third reading, we are now seeing the push being made in the Senate as the 19th Congress opened last January 23. Sen. Mark Villar filed Senate Bill 1670 last Jan. 12, 2023. It has been said that the Senate will pass the measure when they adjourn in March 2023.

We have read the PDP 2023-2028 and there is nothing there on the MIF. When the Medium Term Fiscal Framework was made, there was no MIF. When the General Appropriations Act was passed and signed to law, Republic Act 11936, there was no MIF.

The genesis of MIF started with the Maharlika Sovereign Fund, or HB 6398, filed on Nov. 28, 2022. Approved by the House on Dec. 15, 2022 and transmitted to the Senate on Dec. 19, 2022. All in all, eight session days.

Communication is very important in a very controversial issue, much more when muddled by extraneous variables that remain unsolved, not handled properly, or aggravates governance and management of the affairs of state. Internal and external communication are musts. What does the bureaucracy know about the MIF? What would be their roles? How would the fund impact on key agencies named in the draft bill who will implement the law? Externally, would the passage of the MIF lead to a better life for Juan de la Cruz? Would we achieve Ambisyon 2040 (matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay)? How would transformation be made that would result in "job creation and accelerate poverty reduction by steering the economy back on a high-growth path"? Have the local government been consulted in terms of projects in their localities? The MIF is a centrist view of development which has been rejected because it focuses heavily on Luzon, leaving behind the Visayas and Mindanao, do we continue to want this pattern? The measure declares, "create jobs, promote trade and investments, strengthen connectivity, expand infrastructure, achieve energy and food security." The how becomes apparent in such motherhood statements.

When the State establishes an independent Maharlika Investment Fund by investing national funds, and coordinating and strengthening the investment activities of the country's top-performing government financial institutions (GFIs) to promote economic growth and social development, how would allocation be made? In the tradition of Laswell, "who gets what, when and how" is a reality the implementors would have to deal with.

As the Marcos administration attempts to "pursue bureaucratic reform to curb smuggling, lower logistics costs, and ensure ease of doing business," among others, he is also pushing for the creation of an independent corporate body (Maharlika Investment Corp.), that shall act as a "vehicle for the purpose of mobilizing and utilizing the MIF for investments in transactions that will enable the fund to reap optimal returns on investments (ROIs)." Again, where is Juan de la Cruz in all these? How was the MIF and the MIC explained to Filipinos and to taxpayers?

If the MIC is authorized to have its "principal place of business in Metro Manila, but may maintain branches, agencies and correspondents in such other places, within and without the Philippines, as the proper conduct of its business may require, what is its budget? Would it be a line item or is the 2 percent mentioned in Section 12 enough? Would it be setting up an entirely new public organization? How different is the MIC from the National Development Corp., or NDC, which was created to "function as the government's investment arm. NDC develops, finances and implements pioneering development-oriented projects to achieve inclusive growth."

The NDC is one of the oldest companies in the Philippines dating back to March 10, 1919 via Legislative Act 1248. The NDC's first name was "Compañia de Fomento Nacional."

On Nov. 30, 1936, the NDC was made a state-owned company via Commonwealth Act 182, mandated to function as the government's investment arm. NDC developed, financed and implemented pioneering projects vital to the sustainability of the government's structural reforms and economic policies. On Jan. 9, 1938, Commonwealth Act 311 expanded NDC's power and gave it another 25-year corporate life, while allowing it to engage in the development of natural resources.

The NDC was reorganized in 1979 (Presidential Decree 1648) and enabled the company to provide capital and managerial expertise for projects and enterprises it has undertaken. PD 1648 increased NDC's capital stock to P10 billion and empowered the company to exist for 50 years from 1979 and deemed renewed for an equal period. In 2003, NDC was reorganized under Executive Order 184. The reorganization was necessary for NDC to fulfill its new mandate, of providing equity investment in pioneering development-oriented projects. The new mandate paved the way for NDC to become a critical player on the economic team behind President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Medium Term Development Program of 2004-2010.

If only the framers of HB 6398 took time to study the NDC, there would not be wasted political capital and refocusing done from basic commodities to Maharlika. But then again, that was not the real intention. The subterfuge is discernible. Why not just be real about Maharlika, that way the public will understand and be supportive of it?

No, Mr. President, do not lose sleep on inflation. You cannot solve that because it is global. In our case, the spike is coming from food inflation. That is supply and demand and a lot of smugglers in between! Deal with it, get back on the horse and be a decision-maker who gets his team to implement and not just air wishes, without anyone following your orders. Let Maharlika sleep or be real on why Maharlika.


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