Senator Imee Marcos feared that the proposed Philippine sovereign wealth fund might suffer the same fate as Malaysia's 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which was hounded by graft issues.
"Nakita natin ang kapitbahay natin-- Malaysia. Talagang disaster ang nangyari sa kanilang 1MDB na nakurakot na yung pera, ibinagsak pa ang buong pamahalaan at yung partido na nag-umpisa sa Republika ng Malaysia," Marcos said in a chance interview.
"Nakakatakot talaga ito kaya pag-isipin nating maiigi kung ito ba ay talagang tamang panahon, kung handa ba ang Pilipinas para sa sariling sovereign fund ngayon," she added.
Marcos also questioned the timing of the creation of the sovereign wealth fund given the current economic crisis and the government's unpaid foreign debts and unfunded social services.
"Tama ba yung panahon ngayon na mag-iinvest ka medyo kahit papaano high-risk 'yan [sapagkat] ang sama sama ng ekonomiya ng buong mundo?" Marcos asked.
"Diyos ko papaano na lang tayo... Alam natin na lumolobo ang utang ng Pilipinas samantalang malaki pa rin ang utang natin sa health workers, di pa bayad. [Yung] senior citizens. Kulang-kulang pa rin ang stipend e ang laki laki ng utang natin panlabas pagkatapos magbibigay pa tayo ng tinatawag na sovereign fund. Pero hindi ko pa nababasa to be fair at hindi naman ako ekonomista," Marcos, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said.
She also aired her concerns over the use of pension funds in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for the creation of the sovereign wealth fund.
"Sa tingin ko nakakatakot yata ipusta yung retirement fund, 'yung pension fund ng GSIS. Nakakatakot yata," she said.
But Marcos agreed that the government must consolidate the capital of government financial institutions and the government-owned and controlled corporations but it should be used for projects such as dams, which she said, can be utilized for the irrigation of agricultural lands and the generation of power.
The senator was also concerned about who would handle the said funds.
"Sino magma-manage niyan? Nakita natin sa Norway 'yung kanilang Central Bank through their Ministry of Finance ang siyang humahawak niyan. Sino ang hahawak satin? Isa pang usapin yan na mainit," she said.
On Thursday, a House panel approved a bill that seeks to establish billions of pesos worth of sovereign wealth dubbed as the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).
The bill aims to maximize investible state assets for the improvement of social services.
Under it, the MIF will get allocations from the following government financial institutions (GFIs):
- P125 billion from Government Service Insurance System
- P50 billion from Social Security System
- P50 billion from Land Bank of the Philippines
- P25 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines and
- P25 billion from the National Treasury
The bill also mandates Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, among other government instrumentalities, to pitch in on the MIF.
The bill also authorizes the President to appoint two independent directors to the board of the Maharika Investments Corporation, which will operationalize the disbursement and management of the MIF.
So far, there is no counterpart measure filed in the Senate for the creation of a sovereign wealth fund.
Last Wednesday, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the establishment of the MIF "has been the imprimatur" of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.--the brother of Sen. Imee Marcos. — DVM, GMA Integerated News