Press Release
July 19, 2023

Transcript Senate President Migz Zubiri
The Source

Q: Andun po kayo during the signing of the President of the Maharlika. There's a lot of things the President said, allaying fears, sabi niya focus on financial decisions. Earlier, he said saan niyo ba palagay na ilalagay namin itong perang ito? Nanonood daw siya ng TV, akala pa raw ng publiko sa yate or sa magagarang kotse. Senate President, just to be clear, saan ho ba initially planong iinvest itong fund?

SP MIGZ: Well, let's put in proper context. He said sabi nga niya nanonood siya ng news, napapakinggan niya po ang kritisismo ng mga ayaw ng Maharlika Investment Fund, na parang kapag itinayo ito bibili sila ng magagandang kotse, bibili sila ng yate. Parang it is so out of this world. According to him, it is so out of this world to misuse this fund for these purposes. Kaya sinasabi niya during debates in the Congress and Senate, the investment in Malaysia kept cropping up, yung One MDB fund nila which was used for buying fancy jewelry, cars ng asawa ng prime minister who are in jail now in Malaysia. This is just an example of one bad fund, for all the other 100 or so investment funds. So sabi niya, hindi mangyayari ito. In fairness, Pinky, naglagay po tayo ng napakaraming penalties para sa misuse ng pondong ito. We actually put two pages of penalties in the law to make sure that the fund will be properly used, or not misused for corruption. Even the selection process for the individuals that will be part of the board and head of the Maharlika Investment Fund naglagay po tayo ng napakaraming safeguards na parang nag-aapply ka ng judge or position sa Supreme Court na you have to go through a fine-toothed comb, butas ng karayom, and then the President will choose, will select among the best of the best on this selection committee. Talagang 'yun ay napakaraming safeguard na inilagay natin doon. Now, ang sabi ng Pangulo sa akin, because in the sideline, he sat beside me, he wants to do big ticket items kung saan may high-impact projects for the economy. For example, toll bridges, toll roads which will employ tens of thousands Filipinos sa construction period. Palagay na natin, I gave it an example, yung Cavite-Bataan bridge, it will be almost as long as the Hong Kong-Macau bridge, pero benefit sa bansa natin ay napakalaki. Bakit? In the construction phase which is gonna be 56 years, we will be employing tens of thousands of construction workers, everything from skilled to non-skilled will be employed there. Imagine niyo yung opportunities ng Metro Manila, kasi Cavitex yan, Cavite po yan or Mega Manila, and Bataan which is Region 3. Tapos kapag naayos po yung tulay na 'yun, it will shorten the travel time from the ports from Manila North Harbor, together with the ICTSI where they bring in 40-foot containers, hindi na po nila kailangang dumaan pa sa North Expressway or NLEX para papunta ng Region 3, dadaan na lang sila ng Cavitex. It will shorten the travel hours from 4 hours, Pinky, to about 45 minutes to 1 hour maximum. Imagine the help in the economy there because it will be easier to bring the food in these areas. That's the third. The fourth, that is where the income will come in. Ang sabi nga ng mga media friends natin kahapon, so paano makikinabang ang tao diyan. So I've mentioned all these. I've mentioned the first two. Of course the third, it will increase the economic growth in these areas, Mega Manila and Region 3. Number 4, yung income sa toll road kasi may income po yan, you can ask, why is MVP group and San Miguel Corporation putting up toll roads everywhere? It's because there's also income to be made in these toll roads. Yung income po na yan, Pinky, babalik po yan sa Maharlika Investment Fund at lalaki at lalaki ang pondo ng Maharlika Investment to fund other major infrastructure projects of the same intensity.

Q: That's one example. So you've mentioned MVP and RSA, sila po ang meron pong mga tollways. In a situation like this, tama ho ba, government will be the one building these roads, building these tollways rather, and then government din po ang makikinabang. Government initiative as is. Hindi po siya PPP?

SP MIGZ: Hindi naman, Pinky. Pwede naman kasing PPP yan. Of course, the Maharlika Investment Fund cannot fund that project alone. The project that I've mentioned, the Bataan-Cavite bridge, is going to cost trillions of pesos. It's not going to cost just billions of pesos. So definitely hindi makapasok buo ang Maharlika Investment Fund. Magkakaroon po ng PPP yan. So le's say it could be a consortium between the MVP group, Ramon Ang of the San Miguel Group, at kasama po let's say third player ang Maharlika Investment Fund, it could be 30 percent owner. So not necessarily po na—they are not in the business of building things. They are in the business of investing in this project. Hindi po sila ang magtatayo niyan, they have to partner with private companies.

Q: Because the President mentioned yesterday this will help us somehow siguro stop the increase in government borrowings. So what happens here is there's a project and Maharlika Investment Council [which] decides, mukhang profitable itong negosyong ito so papasok tayo. So ang tanong, is there any provision in the law that will have, number one, oversight, and number two, profitability in terms of timeline. Ibig sabihin meron ho ba sa batas na sasabihin in two years dapat meron tayong percentage na kita, in four years dapat meron din tayong percentage na kita. Pero kung hindi tayo kumita, what's next? Meron ho ba anything in the law? Please explain, Sir.

SP MIGZ: Yes actually meron tayong oversight committee na inilagay sa Maharlika Investment Fund na kung saan ang members ng Senado at Kongreso ay kasama po doon, at of course we will review the projects that are planned to be implemented or even review projects that have been started and are ongoing. Accordingly from the President and the economic team, maglalagay sila ng best of the best finance and economic managers, and they are not going to look just within the Filipinos within the Philippines. They are trying to look at Filipinos abroad, yung mga nagtatrabaho sa mga fund management groups. Actually the plan is to put it in not high risk, but rather medium to low risk investment. Bakit? Kasi pera ng gobyerno yan, ingat na ingat po diyan. It's part of the penalties if it's going to be misused. Imagine, I wouldn't think that they would put the fund in the stock market. With due respect to the stock exchange, I think the stock exchange right now is in the morbid state. Hindi gumagalaw ang stock exchange natin. Walang nag-iinvest. As a matter of fact, I know major companies, Metro Pacific included, that want to delist from Philippine Stock Exchange. So definitely the MIF should not touch these investibles because of the risk involved. So kasi diyan madaling matalo ang pondong yan. Ilalagay po nila yan sa mga proyekto with partnership with private sector that they know concrete projects that are going to be high impact for the economy and of course with steady returns for the Maharlika Investment Fund. So wala po tayong timeline diyan. As I mentioned yesterday, binanggit ko po ito, pinick up po ito ng mga news outlets, the benefits of the Maharlika Investment Fund are not within the next two years. I don't think it will be in the next two years or three years. This could a long term program, and I think ang benepisyo nito will be already in the next administration. Possibly the next generation. I mean pangmatagalan nga ito, and the President mentioned this yesterday in his speech na pangmatagalan nga po ito. Look at Vietnam, ten years ago, Pinky, kapag pumunta ka ng Vietnam, simple lang, puro motorsiklo makikita mo. Ngayon kapag bumisita ka ng Vietnam, nakakaiyak, ako ay nakakaiyak dahil ang dami-dami nilang infrastructure program built by the Vietnamese government. And these are all over the place. Major bridges, connector roads, skyways which really prop up the economy. Skyways are connecting from one ecozone to another. And the port area and airport. So in this case, we can do this now. Pwede po natin yan gawin ngayon na, hindi na natin kailangan mag-utang pa. Pabalik-balik po ang paratang na ang laki-laki na ng utang ng gobyerno, it's P14.1, P14.2 trillion. Everybody owes how many hundreds of thousands, per individual in this country. That's why the President does not want to have to borrow anymore for these major infrastructure projects. And that is one way of being able to jumpstart the economy, we keep our GDP debt ratio lower, hopefully it will come down, and we will be able to jumpstart high-impact investments. Napakahalaga nito, Pinky. For example, I'll give you another example, Pinky, yung Visayas bridge program kung saan ikokonek natin ang Panay Island to Guimaras, that's Iloilo to Guimaras to Negros Occidental, and from Negros Occidental they will pass to the southern part of the Negros Occidental which is Dumaguete, it will go to Santander, in Cebu, going all the way up to Bohol, connecting Cebu to Bohol. Imagine, Pinky, for tourism, you can have breakfast in Tagbilaran and dinner in Boracay. Ang ganda, with your vehicle, with just one car, you are driving to these all beautiful areas of Central and Western Visayas and it will not only bring tourism but goods to each island. Hindi na po kailangan ng ro-ro, and [this can be] one of the projects that the Maharlika Investment Fund [can invest in]. It can fund high-impact, high-value and of course big returns for its investible program.

Q: Kailan ho mararamdaman ng tao ang benepisyo ng investment ng Maharlika Investment Fund?

SP MIGZ: Well, Pinky, alam mo pangmatagalan ito. So ang aking pakiramdam, I cannot predict the future, it's a long term game. It will take possibly between 3 to 5 years before we actually feel the benefits of the Maharlika Investment Fund. Kasi kung gagamitin po natin yung pondo pang infrastructure program, matagal po ang paggawa ng mga tulay, matagal po ang paggawa ng mga toll roads. But in the short term, dahil ginagawa po natin itong mga tulay, kalsada na ito, I'm just giving one example, magkakaroon po tayo ng general upliftment of the economy dahil siyempre magha-hire po tayo ng maraming tao na magtatrabaho sa mga projects na ito. But the income that will be made by the Maharlika Investment Fund will take a while kasi nga itatayo pa yan, once the toll road is completed, sisingilin natin ang mga tao sa pagdaan sa mga kalsadang iyon. Of course the income will go back to the Maharlika Investment Fund. But again as I've said, in the short term we will be creating a lot of jobs, a lot of opportunites. Other countries will look at us and say ah pwede tayong mag-invest diyan kasi tignan niyo ang infrastructure programs and developments nila. You know that's one of the—these are one of the factors why there's foreign direct investment in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand and other countries where they focus on a lot of infrastructure developments, brand new airports, brand new seaports, widening the [connections] between ecozones. So malaking bagay yan para mas lalong dumami po ang investment sa ating bansa. Both locally sa kapwa Pilipino na negosyante and of course foreign direct investment na mga galing sa Estados Unidos na aalis for example sa China, at naghahanap po sila ng lugar na makainvest dito sa Asya, dito sila pupunta sa atin sa Pilipinas. There's a lot of benefits to be made out of this Maharlika Investment Fund. For the long term, I see of course job generation and the overall positive sentiment of foreign direct investors and other pople who want to invest in the Philippines. Yung kung kapag kumita, when will it earn, that's a bit longer game. It's not going to be earning in the short term because we don't want to put it in the high risk. As I said, we don't want to put it—definitely not in stocks, definitely not in cryptocurrency. It will never be used in cryptocurrency, you know it's a volatile market. So these are a long-term games for long-term gains.

Q: There are already groups planning to question the constitutionality of the Maharlika Investment Fund before the Supreme Court. Are you at all concerned that maybe there could have been some problems by which—in the process by which the enrolled bill was done and transmitted to Malacañan for the President's signature?

SP MIGZ: Pinky, for those who are not familiar with the legislative process. I've been a legislator for twenty years now. Almost on my twenty-second year as a legislator. Mahabang proseso po yan, and it was just an honest mistake. Bakit? Inaprub po natin ang measure alas-tres ng umaga, alas-dos ng umaga, bumalik po tayo sa Senado para magkaroon ng meeting with the House of [Representatives] seven hours later, pagod na pagod po yung Secretariat natin. It was just an honest mistake of the Secretariat. I even spoke to our Minority Floor Leader and I told him that there was no intent to malign or malicious intent to change any provision. Because in the legislative process, Pinky, you always go back to the transcript of records. That's why I am not worried about the Supreme Court because we will provide them the transcript of records of what transpired. We only chose the same provision, only one prescription period of ten years. Si Senator Risa proposed for twenty years, Senator Mark said no, we do not accept twenty years, only ten. Very clear on the transcript of records. It was very clear and I said, "Are there any objections to the motion of the sponsor that it will only be ten?" No objections, and then I said okay, the motion of Risa to amend to twenty years is lost. And then we approve subject to style, and when you say subject to style, diyan mo lilinisin yung particular provision, you put the legal content. So the transcript of records is very clear. Nagkamali lang ang Secretariat at nasabihan ko na po sila at masama nga ang loob nila that they missed out a correction. So let's not make a mountain out of a molehill here kasi there was no intent to sabotage or destroy the essence of the bill. Buti sana if we added a provision about allowing Pag-ibig or SSS or whatever, we can't do that. It was just an honest mistake that they were not able to clean that section 50 and 51. The next process, Senator Mark Villar wrote the Secretariat and said no, nagkamali kayo diyan, lagyan niyo ng tamang pinag-usapan sa plenaryo, so they corrected it. That is the process, we do that in the budget, when you pass the budget, Pinky, in third and final reading, even if it is ratified, you have people of Senator Angara and the Chairman of the Committee of Appropriations in the House working at the midnight hour, making sure that all these provisions are correctly placed into the budget of the Philippines. We didn't do anything illegal. The process is sound. When you talked about the process and how it was passed, I stand firm that it is not unconstitutional and it is constitutionally sound.

Q: What will happen sakaling mag-issue ng arrest warrant ang ICC?

SP MIGZ: Unang-una, what I said yesterday, we have local courts, we have our Secretary of Justice, we have our own Department of Justice, we have our own local courts as I mentioned earlier. Just the same thing that happened to Senator Trillanes, Senator de Lima, unless a local warrant of arrest is issued to a member of the Senate or Secretariat, the Senate will uphold their legal right unless there is a valid warrant of arrest. Why are we duty bound to give up Senator Bato dela Rosa? That was the question asked me by the media, will you give him up when the ICC comes out with warrant of arrest. No, because we have local jurisdiction, local courts [are] supposed [to be the] one that will release the warrant of arrest. Without the local warrant of arrest issued by the courts, then as far as I'm concerned, he is still a working member of the Senate and accorded of course that respect, similar to Senator De Lima and Senator Trillanes. only when the warrant of arrest was issued, then we allowed or we agreed that they may be taken in the custody. The process is the ICC should be filing with the local courts, and the local courts will be the one issuing the warrants of arrest. That should be the process. I'm just stating a fact, a legal fact.

Q: If the ICC wants to issue an arrest warrant it has to coordinate with the local court and that local court will issue the warrant of arrest on behalf of the ICC?

SP MIGZ: Yes, that is the process/ That's why we are a sovereign nation, Pinky. No outsider—imagine if Russia says we want to arrest whoever in the Philippines, and then all of a sudden they will be arrested without going through due process and then taken away from the country. We are still a sovereign country and they are still a citizen of this country. They do that with many other countries. But however ang delikado diyan, if Senator Bato dela Rosa leaves the country and goes to the country that is friendly to the ICC, then they will act in that country to arrest Senator dela Rosa, but here in the Philippines the process is they must coordinate with the local court.

Q: If the local court does that, will the Senate protect Senator dela Rosa?

SP MIGZ: Whoever Senator, whoever, as I said whether you are the highest official of the land or lowest official of the land or member, citizen of this country, no one is above the law. If the local court issues a warrant of arrest, we cannot do anything about it. As I said, that is our practice of sovereign in our country. We have our local courts, they must respect that.

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