Comments amid greenlighted Maharlika Investment Fund after suspension order

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos speaks to Reuters during an exclusive interview at his hotel in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2023. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

After ordering its suspension, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) would be “operational” by the end of 2023.

The chief executive on Thursday, October 19 expressed alarm at previous reports saying that the sovereign wealth fund would be put on hold, based on a memorandum that bore his office’s letterhead.

“Quite the contrary,” Marcos said in a speech before leaving for the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to advance the country’s interests in the economy, agriculture and welfare of overseas Filipino workers.

“The organization of the Maharlika Fund proceeds apace. And what I have done, though, is that we have found more improvements we can make, specifically to the organizational structure of the Maharlika Fund,” he added, as quoted in another report.

“The concept of the Maharlika fund as a sovereign fund, an investment fund…. remains a good one and we are still committed to having it operational by the end of the year,” Marcos continued.

He also acknowledged the suspension order that came from a memorandum bearing his office’s letterhead.

The president said it should not be misinterpreted as “a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of the Maharlika fund.”

“On the contrary, we are just finding ways to make this as close to perfect and ideal as possible… And this has been in consultation not only with our economic managers, but also with people who will be involved in the funds,” Marcos said.

“That is why their inputs have been very important and that is why we are going to utilize them to make it a better organization,” he added.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the chief executive through a memorandum ordered for the MIF’s implementation to be suspended immediately. The message of the letter reads:

With reference to the IRR of RA No. 11934, and upon the directive of the President, the Treasurer of the Philippines, in coordination with the LBP and DBP, is hereby DIRECTED to suspend the implementation of the IRR of RA No. 11954 pending further study thereof, and to notify all concerned heads of departments, bureaus, offices, and other agencies of the executive department, including GOCCs, of such action.

For immediate compliance. 

It was signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, with the sign-off as “By Authority of the President.”

The memo also bore the letterhead of the Office of the President of the Philippines.

In a separate statement, the Office of the Executive Secretary said that Marcos “wanted to study carefully the IRR to ensure that the purpose of the fund will be realized for the country’s development with safeguards in place for transparency and accountability.”

IRR stands for the Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Meanwhile, Marcos’ move to declare the MIF “operational” after a suspension memo raised the eyebrows of some Filipinos who questioned the October 12 order that bore his office’s letterhead.

“Ha??? Napaka-klaro ng memo. Look,” economist JC Punongbayan said, sharing a picture of the signed memorandum.

“Hindi yata nag-uusap si Bersamin at Blengbong (clown emoji),” another Filipino said.

“Malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw ang memo,” the online user added.

“‘Yung totoo, bhe, wala ba kayo group chat,” another Pinoy commented to the development.

The Maharlika Investment Fund is Marcos’ pet project which is said to serve as a long-term source of investment capital, fostering economic growth and job creation.

It is said to finance various infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges and airports, and bring in fresh capital and technology by attracting foreign investment to stimulate economic growth.

The MIF is also said to be allocated across a diverse range of assets, including foreign currencies, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, commercial real estate and infrastructure projects.

However, critics — including business groups, academia, economists and opposition lawmakers — have warned it will be prone to misuse.

Some have challenged its legality before the Supreme Court, arguing it was not duly enacted in accordance with the Philippine Constitution.

The petitioners argued that the MIF should be declared unconstitutional as its passage “bypassed” the constitutionally mandated legislative process.

The test of economic viability, as required by the Constitution, was also not complied with and the MIF violated the central bank’s independence, the petitioners added.

The controversial Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 was signed into law on July 18. Its IRR was issued on August 28.

ALSO READ: Sovereign vs investment fund: Chel Diokno weighs in on Maharlika Investment bill  Maharlika Investment Fund: What it is and how it can affect Filipinos

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