Philippines selling Japan properties to raise funds for PhilHealth

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Philippines selling Japan properties to raise funds for PhilHealth
President Duterte said the graft-ridden state insurer might end up cash-strapped if it would not be given interventions.
Presidential Photo / Robinson Niñal Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has justified the need to sell the country’s assets in Tokyo and Kobe, citing the Philippines’ need to raise money as a stopgap measure to prevent the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from going bankrupt.

“That is why we are selling properties. That is the reason why we are selling properties, real estate properties in Japan, because we have to raise money,” Duterte said in a delayed telecast address to the nation last Monday night.

Duterte said the graft-ridden state insurer might end up cash-strapped if it would not be given interventions.

“Wala nang pambayad ’yang sa PhilHealth na ’yan… Kaya walang ibang remedy diyan. It must be a surgical move… Kung hindi, paalisin ko sana the itong mga Civil-Civil Service (There won’t be cash for PhilHealth to pay… There is no other remedy but a surgical move. Otherwise, I will remove these Civil Service),” he added.

Duterte made public his stand on the issue after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. bared the plot to use the proceeds from the proposed sale as a “retirement fund of last resort” for some government officials “who’ve run through the budgets of their own agencies.”

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the House of Representatives’ constitutional amendments committee, had earlier said the Supreme Court (SC) had already ruled that the Roppongi property is correctly classified under the Civil Code as properly belonging to the state and intended for some public service” after there were attempts to unload the assets in the past.

The property is deemed of symbolic value to all Filipinos, veterans and civilians alike, the SC ruled.

It said the four “properties and the capital goods and services procured from the Japanese government for national development projects are part of the indemnification to the Filipino people for their losses in life and property and their suffering during World War II.”

Before the property can be sold, both the President and Congress must concur, according to the SC.

Rodriguez has also filed a resolution that called on Malacañang to stop the plan to sell Philippine assets in Tokyo and Kobe acquired by the government from Japan under a World War II reparations agreement in May 1956.

There are reports on selling the properties located in the posh Roppogi and Nampedai districts in Tokyo and two others in Kobe, supposedly for the pension of war veterans.

These are the 3,179-square meter Philippine property on 306 Roppongi St. 5-Chome Minato-ku in Tokyo; the 2,489.96-sq.m. Nampeidai property at 11-24 Nampeidai-machi, Shibuya-ku also in Tokyo; the 764.72 sq.m. commercial property at 63 Naniwa-cho in Kobe and the residential property at 1-980-2 Obanoyama-cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe.

‘Never agree’

Meanwhile, Locsin yesterday said he would never agree to the sale of Philippine properties in Japan for “any reason.”

He instead turned to the properties of the Department of Budget and Management, Bureau of Treasury and Department of Health, saying the properties of these departments may be sold.

“I will never agree to the sale of our properties in Japan for any reason. Sell the properties of the departments of budget, treasury, health above all for its lousy response to COVID,” Locsin tweeted.

“I don’t mean the secretaries. The properties are idle. Imagine selling our Japan properties to fund the programs of DOH? Rob PhilHealth some more instead. They’re good at that. Sell San Lazaro. Sell RITM,” he said.

Locsin revealed a “plot” to sell the four Philippine properties in Japan, but he did not identify who is behind the plot.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), according to Locsin, had already sent to Congress its opposition to the sale.

“I believe no decision has been taken, and if you look at the properties and the SC decision, there are many legal questions that would first need to be resolved,” DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Eduardo Menez said.

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