Imee Marcos wants tweaks to proposed Maharlika fund bill

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Imee Marcos wants tweaks to proposed Maharlika fund bill
Sen. Imee Marcos speaks during a Commission on Appointments hearing on November 23, 2022.
Bibo Nueva España / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Imee Marcos is not fully on board the proposal reportedly backed by her brother, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to establish a P275 billion sovereign wealth fund called Maharlika Wealth Fund as she proposes tweaks to and raises questions over some provisions of the measure.

While Sen. Marcos said the goal of the proposed Maharlika fund to pool some of the government’s money is good, she expressed opposition to the use of funds from state insurers Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System.

“Retirement funds should be zero risk. Their values are depleting due to inflation and rising prices, and yet these will be placed elsewhere?” Sen. Marcos said Friday of the proposal, primarily authored by her cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, and nephew, House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos.

Sen. Marcos also bucked the proposal for the fund to be invested in foreign corporate bonds, arguing that investments should only be placed domestically.

“If we don’t have trust in ourselves, who else will put trust and invest in the Philippines?” she said.

She also said that there must be transparency and accountability in the management of the proposed sovereign wealth fund as she pointed out several exemptions which are proposed to be enjoyed by the fund, including exemptions from taxes, procurement laws and competition laws.

Earlier Friday, Sen. Marcos, who at the time admitted she had not yet read the bill, expressed worry over the proposal as she raised concerns over the feasibility of the Maharlika fund in light of global economic headwinds and the national government’s rising debt.

“Is now the right time to invest? It’s quite high-risk as the global economy is so bad,” she told reporters.

The senator also pointed out that the country has no excess revenues unlike Norway, which had a windfall from North Sea oil and gas profits which it used to seed its sovereign wealth fund.

Other senators have said they will keep a close eye on the proposed Maharlika fund, with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri tapping Sens. Juan Edgardo Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Mark Villar and Alan Peter Cayetano to study the proposal.

"We must first ensure the Sovereign Wealth Fund is necessary ... If so, we need to ensure that it is managed properly and that safeguards are in place so that it would not be misused or prone to corruption. We must make sure that there is full transparency and efficient utilization of this fund," Zubiri said in a statement.

Gatchalian said there must be full transparency and checks and balances should the government push for the creation of the Maharlika fund.

“Corruption can be addressed by safeguards. What is important is to have safeguards. The law must ensure there are safeguards, as well as professional management and transparency,” he said. — with PNA



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