Senate waiting for final Maharlika Investment Fund bill from House

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — Senators are waiting for the final version of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill which has undergone several changes at the House of Representatives.

Senate President Migz Zubiri on Monday welcomed the removal of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as funding sources for MIF.

He said lawmakers want to ensure there are enough safeguards on the use of the investment fund.

"It's a step in the right direction," Zubiri said. "But nevertheless, we want to see the safeguards. We want to see if COA (Commission on Audit) can actually access the reports para at least meron tayong [So we have] transparency."

"It should be vetted out carefully," he also said. "We have to make sure that the safeguards are in place so there’s no question on trust issues. Kasi may katanungan ng trust [because there are questions on trust]."

He added that the general sentiment among senators is to wait for the final version from the House before they file a counterpart bill in the upper chamber, stressing they want to study it thoroughly.

A House panel on Monday approved several amendments to the controversial bill, including replacing the president of the country as the chairperson of the MIF board.

The lower chamber is expected this week to pass on second reading the MIF bill authored by Speaker Martin Romualdez, presidential son Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos, and four other lawmakers.

Congress' last session will be on Wednesday before lawmakers take a month-long break for the holidays.

Zubiri said he talked to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. about the proposed MIF. He said the President understands the lengthy processes in the Senate since he himself has served as senator.

"In fairness to the President, he never instructed me to hasten the proceedings on this issue," Zubiri said. "Ang sabi ko lang, ang pangako ko lang sa kanya, magkaka-caucus kami na hindi pa nangyari. We are trying to come up with a time. Wala kaming time eh."

[Translation: I promised him that we will have a caucus, which has not happened yet. We are trying to come up with a time but we cannot find the time yet.]

Marcos on Sunday expressed support for the creation of the contentious investment fund, saying the country stands to benefit from it.

The Senate president has ordered chairpersons of relevant committees to look into the proposed MIF and identify whether or not the country needs a sovereign wealth fund and determine how to police it.

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.