Singapore investors invited to co-finance with Maharlika

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday urged Singapore businesses to explore projects co-financed by the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).

He made the remarks at a business roundtable in Singapore, during which he also urged investors to look into the Philippine renewable energy industry.

“We look forward to exploring co-financing opportunities with foreign investors, with multilateral institutions, and with other sovereign wealth funds around the world,” he was quoted as saying in a Palace statement on Thursday.

“To our partners in Singapore, I offer you the assurance of our greatest efforts in supporting businesses as we work together in achieving our economic agenda and making the Philippines your destination of choice for investment,” he added.

In the question and answer position of the 10th Asia Summit hosted by the Milken Institute in Singapore earlier in his visit, Mr. Marcos said he considers the MIF fund a pathway towards reducing dependence on foreign loans.

“We… started to worry about borrowing,” he said. “Although our borrowing in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) is not as high as maybe our neighboring countries, we are at about 62.3% up to 63% of GDP… for us that is high.”

He said the wealth fund could drive “economic development through strategic investments both domestically and overseas.”

Philippine debt as a share of GDP stood at 61% at the end of the second quarter, above the 60% threshold considered by multilateral lenders to be manageable for developing economies.

Mr. Marcos also assured that Maharlika will be run not by “politicians” but by professional fund managers.

Rent-seeking by politically connected groups is among the biggest risks to the MIF, Enrico P. Villanueva, a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said in a tweet.

Mr. Marcos signed the Maharlika bill into law in July, amid concerns raised by economists over its financing and management.

The fund will be managed by the Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC), which will have authorized capital of P500 billion.

Some P125 billion worth of funding will come from the National Government (P50 billion), Land Bank of the Philippines (P50 billion) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion).

The National Government will source its P50-billion contribution from 100% of the dividends of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for the first two years, and a 10% share of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s income for five years. 

It will also take 10% of the revenue from the gaming operations of other government-owned gaming operators and regulators; proceeds from the privatization of government assets; and other sources such as royalties and/or special assessments for five years.

Mr. Villanueva urged the public to remain vigilant, asking for a review of the implementing rules and regulations and monitoring of the impact of fund transfer from government financial institutions to the MIC.

The public should also subject the MIC Board to scrutiny, track news and activities of the MIC, and closely monitor its financial and governance reports, he added.

At Wednesday’s roundtable discussion with Singapore businessmen, Mr. Marcos also encouraged investment in the Philippines’ renewable energy industry, innovation economy, and infrastructure.

He highlighted the raising of the foreign investor ownership limit to 100% in the exploration, development, and utilization of solar, wind, hydro, and ocean energy resources.

“The policy change comes as the Philippines seeks to attract foreign investment to boost the renewable energy sector and to meet our long-term climate targets,” he said.

“With this development, I encourage our Singapore partners to consider the Philippines and take part in the country’s goal of increasing the share of renewables in power generation and offering lower-cost and cleaner energy to the general public,” he added.

He also called for investment in financial technology to help the Philippines achieve its goal of 50% digital retail transactions by the end of 2023. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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