After only six months under the new Marcos administration, the Filipino people have already been deceived, tricked, and taken advantage of. It seems that this is only the beginning, as exhibited by the recent passing of House Bill 6608, which established the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), last December 15. Filed by Speaker and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, the first cousin of the president, alongside presidential son and Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Sandro Marcos, the sovereign wealth fund (SWF)—in theory—would benefit the country greatly through the promotion of diversification in the economy through investments, which would then help to stabilize the economy. But there are many caveats to the proposed bill.
The most glaring facet would be that there is no defined scope as to what the fund is allocated toward. The bill itself lays its shaky foundation on non-specifics, only stating under its objectives that it aims to “contribute to a prudent and transparent management of the government resources”, which is quite a bold statement coming from a family with an obscene track record in corruption. When pressed for more specifics, the proponents chose to fall back on national development, which does nothing but provide a smokescreen by which they usually hide behind.
Normally, an SWF sources its money from a country’s surplus reserves or excess wealth. However, seeing that the Philippines is P13.64 trillion in debt as of end-October and definitely does not have a surplus of P250 billion to spare, it was originally proposed that the funds be taken from government-owned financial institutions such as the Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System—in other words, from the citizenry’s well-deserved pension, retirement, and insurance accounts. It was only after public outcry that the proponents hastily took back this provision, instead replacing these institutions with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, among others.
Still, that is quite a sum of money to be placed in the hands of the first family. With accusations of nepotism brewing and the lack of transparency concerning the bill, it would not be amiss to believe that the MIF will only exist to line the pockets of the powers that be.
It is important to note that the bill references other countries that possess their own SWF—such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, among others—failing to consider that the two former countries are developed nations. In contrast, the Philippines is still classified as a developing country by the United Nations. The proponents also make a strong claim of the Philippines securing “its place not only as the Rising Star of Asia but as a real economic leader in the Asia Pacific”, completely disregarding the current dollar deficit and rapid inflation.
Prior to its passing on third reading, the president had certified the bill as “urgent”, although it is certainly too distant from the country’s attempts at recovery.
Backed up by the first family’s already notorious reputation, it is evident that the fund is more disadvantageous than what it’s deemed for. It does not align with what the country needs at the moment: unparalleled support to improve its economic state and the well-being of Filipinos. SWFs are meant to aid countries with huge wealth, but for fragile economies like ours, it becomes detrimental to development.
The administration must stop deceiving the Filipino people with vague intentions draped in a lavish vision that the country can obviously not afford. If the country truly has the funds and the government is committed to increasing revenues, it is a no-brainer to prioritize the needs of the nation—address relevant issues that need to be resolved—as well as support education, domestic sustainable agriculture, and industrialization.