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What Joel Consing envisions for Maharlika


The first employee of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC) has his hands full with all the operational and administrative tasks and requirements necessary to run a newly-established corporation. Yet, Rafael “Joel” Consing Jr., president and chief executive officer (PCEO) of the MIC, does not let the workload get the best of him, as he is focused on his vision for Maharlika.


He shares with this author the birth pains of a new corporation and how it is different from the startups that he was able to build before but with the help of his co-founders. For MIC, although there is a Board that supports him, it is his task to get the ship sailing with a full crew.


“We want to put the right people in place, but at the same time [the country has] all these needs that are out there that we need to respond to. We’re managing that simultaneously,” said Consing, adding that they are hoping to announce MIC’s first commitments in the next four to five months, most probably in the energy, infrastructure, or agriculture sectors.He also adds that it has been his desire to reach out to more Filipinos, not only the elite and working classes, but also the masses, in order to explain to them that what the MIC is doing will be beneficial to them.

 

What exactly is Maharlika?


Consing explains that while the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) was created to be a sovereign wealth fund, it will act first as a national development fund (NDF), at least for the next three to five  years. This means that all investments for the time being will be domestic. 


He further explains that as an NDF, Maharlika is long-term or multigenerational in perspective, wider in breadth in terms of sectors, and collaborative in nature.  


Among the sectors for investment that the MIC is looking into are the infrastructure sector, which includes physical, digital, and social infrastructure; energy security, particularly renewable energy; agriculture, specifically agro-forestry industrial urbanism; tourism; mineral processing; and aviation and aerospace.


To attract investments to the Fund, Consing explained that aside from the main fund, there will be sub-funds, which will give investors the option to either be tactical or sectoral.  


Potential sectors for investment


Infrastructure is among the priorities as these are vital to the country, considering its geographical structure with over 7,000 islands. Roads, bridges, and airports will not only connect communities but also support livelihood generation and tourism. 


Meanwhile, for digital infrastructure, this will be focused on rural areas, aimed at helping the agriculture sector, education sector, and even the healthcare sector, and the rural entrepreneurs so they can reach a wider market either nationwide or internationally. 


Consing notes that this is one area of collaborative engagement with other agencies. For instance, the upskilling of farmers through partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be needed to optimize the use of digital infrastructure in rural areas. 


In relation to agriculture, the aim under agro-forestry industrial urbanism is to create mega-industrial ecozones wherein idle government lands will be made productive by inviting foreign investors to locate in these areas, while also bringing in the producers of raw materials—building an ecosystem where farming and processing can thrive together, and eventually townships will be developed in these ecozones so that people can work where they live.


Consing explains, “I think if people are given the opportunity to work where they live, they will have more time with their families, they can get to their homes much faster, and hopefully, build a more solid social structure for them to be able to excel in the future.”


Another option is to engage in restorative forestry to help not only improve the environment and climate, but also to open more opportunities to create capital by generating carbon credits that can be sold to the market.


Meanwhile, for energy security, the MIC will focus on supporting renewable projects, particularly building new capacity in terms of renewable; as well as participating in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for those existing assets that the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) is planning to sell.


Consing emphasized that Maharlika is not only about generating financial returns, as they must also look into the social and environmental impact of their projects.


The MIC chief stressed that the targeted internal rate of return (IRR) will only be achieved on a long-term basis, “We represent patient capital, as such, we aim to compound our gains to generate returns over time to help meet the country’s socio-economic development objectives.


And while the Maharlika Fund is long-term, Consing admits that his time as the Corporation’s head is limited, which is also the reason he is doing as much as he can to build a strong foundation, so that, whoever sits as the next PCEO would simply be executing and improving upon the programs based on the MIC’s vision to be a “torchbearer for a brighter Philippine future.” 

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