Marcos suspends Philippine wealth fund formation

The surprise announcement comes three months after the president signed off on the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, which critics say would put public money at risk.


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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. — Reuters file
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. — Reuters file

Published: Wed 18 Oct 2023, 1:15 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Oct 2023, 1:16 PM

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has suspended the implementation of a law creating a multi-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, the government said Wednesday.

The surprise announcement came three months after Marcos signed off on the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, which critics said would put public money at risk.

Marcos had pushed Congress for swift approval of the proposal for a 500-billion-peso ($8.8-billion) fund, which was filed by his son and cousin late last year.

The office of executive secretary Lucas Bersamin said Marcos issued the suspension because he wanted to "study carefully" the rules and regulations dealing with implementation of the law.

Marcos wanted "to ensure that the purpose of the fund will be realized for the country's development with safeguards in place for transparency and accountability", the statement said.

A copy of a memo signed by Bersamin, which was dated October 12, with the president's order for the treasurer and state banks to suspend the implementation of the law was released to reporters.

The Maharlika Investment Fund will draw most of its funds from the national government, including the central bank, gaming revenue and two state-owned banks.

The original proposal was for a $4.9 billion fund that would be partly bankrolled by state-run pensions for government and private-sector workers, sparking public fears that retirement savings could be put at risk.

The final version of the bill approved by Congress in May said pension funds would not have to contribute.

The fund will be allowed to make a wide range of investments, including in corporate bonds, equities, joint ventures and infrastructure projects.

It had been flagged as a possible item on the agenda for Marcos's meetings with leaders and businessmen from Saudi Arabia during a visit to Riyadh later this week.

The word "maharlika" is widely associated with Marcos's late father and namesake, a dictator who presided over widespread human rights abuses and corruption during his two decades in power. He was ousted in 1986.

Marcos Sr claimed to have led an anti-Japanese guerrilla unit called Ang Mga Maharlika during World War II, but he has been accused of lying about his war record.

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