Marcos administration eyes sale of government assets to fund Maharlika

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Marcos administration is considering selling some government assets to fund its proposed sovereign wealth fund.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an economic briefing in London on Thursday, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the government could raise the needed cash for what would be called the “Maharlika Wealth Fund” via proceeds from the privatization of state-owned assets like casinos and power plants.

Diokno added that the “substantial” revenues which the government collects from the mining sector could also be used as seed money for Maharlika.

“We plan to privatize a lot of state assets. Gambling, casinos… we can privatize that and put the money to this fund,” he said.

It is now the Senate’s turn to scrutinize the Maharlika bill after the measure was swiftly passed by the House of Representatives.

The Marcos administration has thrown its weight on Maharlika amid opposition to the bill. Unlike other sovereign wealth funds that run using surplus government revenues or reserves, the current version of Maharlika has identified dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ operations and state-owned corporations as funding sources.

The original version of the bill even identified pension funds as possible source of seed money for Maharlika until simmering public backlash to the plan prompted lawmakers to delete these provisions. Experts have also argued that the proposal to establish a wealth fund came at the wrong time for the economy.

READ: Does the P250-B Maharlika Wealth Fund make sense?

Last week, Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay) said he and three more people that he refused to name have been commissioned to “re-engineer” the Maharlika bill. He said the proposed amendments will be introduced once the legislation is filed in the Senate.

READ: After swiftly passing House, Maharlika fund gets quietly revamped

Among the planned changes to the bill were the exclusion of BSP from the funders and the securitization of around P44.33 billion in annual dividends from government corporations, which will be injected to the fund.

Salceda added that the Maharlika fund will undergo an initial public offering and will be listed in the local bourse. He said the government will retain less than 50% ownership and the rest will be in the hands of the private sector.

READ: Lagman flags 'reengineered' Maharlika bill over problems with fund sources



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