By Filane Mikee Cervantes
MANILA – A lawmaker on Friday suggested to tap the earnings from the tourism industry in order to support the creation of a sovereign wealth fund.
Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers made the remark as he expressed full support to Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s plan to use the mining sector’s earnings to bankroll the Maharlika investment fund.
“I fully agree and support Secretary Diokno in his proposal to use the earnings from the mining industry for the Maharlika fund. But I would even venture further. You see, where I come from, Surigao del Norte is not only the mining capital of the country, it is fast becoming a primary tourism destination. So I would propose that we also tap the huge earnings from the tourism industry,” Barbers said.
He noted that these two combined industries will “no doubt rescue and lift” the country from the “pit of debt” at PHP13.64 trillion, according to the latest data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr).
Barbers said that only the mining industry can save the economy post pandemic as it is the single biggest resource that the country has with the potential to earn trillions of dollars.
He said the Philippines is the 4th richest in mineral resources, noting that the country has more than enough to pay off the country’s entire debt from the total gold, copper, nickel and other mineral reserves worth trillions of dollars.
“I have said it many times before, our mining industry can save us and our country. In 10 years, Europe plans to have 50 percent of its vehicles run on full electricity. The raw materials needed for the electric car batteries are here in our country. Allowing the mining industry to proceed full-scale will give us the edge the we badly need,” he said.
“We should not miss the bus again. Of course this is not to say that all kinds of mining firms will be allowed to operate. Only those with proven track records in responsible mining practices will be given accreditation and the permits to do business,” he added.
Aside from reopening and reviving the mining industry, he also earlier recommended strengthening the tourism industry in order to help the economy recover from the impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, meanwhile, said the keen interest shown by global leaders in the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland has bolstered the wisdom of fast-tracking the passage of the proposed measure creating the sovereign wealth fund at the House of Representatives.
“The swift passage of House Bill No. 6608, creating the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), enabled the President and the Philippine delegation to take advantage of the enormous opportunity to showcase the positive developments in our country and creative strategies to gain growth momentum,” Romualdez said.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. introduced the MIF during the Philippines’ Country Strategy Dialogue at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday, saying the process of establishing the country’s first sovereign wealth fund is underway.
“Such a fund is one tool among many in our efforts to diversify our financial portfolio, which includes our existing institutions pursuing investment that will generate stable returns, but also welfare effects spanning employment creation, improvement of public service, and a decrease in costs of economic activities,” Marcos said in his opening remarks at the dialogue.
Romualdez credited the collective effort of the House, from the leadership to the opposition bloc, for the passage of HB 6608 featuring adequate safeguards to protect against corruption or abuse.
With Marcos certifying the bill as urgent, the House approved it on final reading on Dec. 15, 2022, and was transmitted to the Senate on Dec. 19, 2022.
The Senate leadership said the MIF measure is among the priority legislations that the chamber would work on when Congress resumes session this month.
House Bill 6608 or the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, is an independent fund that adheres to the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability, that will be sourced from investible funds of select government financial institutions (GFIs), contributions of the national government, declared dividends of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and other sources. (PNA)