Bam Aquino explains difference between investment fund he proposed in 2016 and Maharlika Wealth Fund

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV defended himself and the investment fund he proposed in 2016 after it was compared to the controversial Maharlika Wealth Fund.

Former Senator Bam Aquino questions the timing of the Maharlika Wealth Fund
Former Senator Bam Aquino questions the timing of the Maharlika Wealth Fund | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Bam Aquino

In a Facebook post on Monday, December 5, Aquino admitted that he filed a bill pushing for a sovereign wealth fund (SWF). He said such an initiative is common among countries. However, he questioned the timing of the current administration’s plans to push their proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF).

Aquino wrote, “Noong 2016, nag-file tayo ng isang batas para sa isang sovereign wealth fund (SWF) ng ating bansa. Pangkaraniwan ang pagkakaroon ng SWF sa buong mundo, at isa itong long-term na paraan upang palawigin ang yaman ng isang bansa.Pero ang tanong, tama ba ang timing?”

He also went on to explain 2 points that differentiate the filing of his SWF bill and the MWF bill. First, he said the timing is very important. When he proposed his SWF, the economy was in much better shape compared to now. He claimed that in 2016, economic growth was strong, government debt was manageable, and inflation was also moderate. Hence, pushing for the SWF was timely. Now, the priority of the government should focus on the high prices of commodities.

“Ngayon, bumagal ang ekonomiya dahil sa pandemya, at mataas ang presyo ng bilihin. Marami sa mga kababayan natin ang nangangailangan ng tulong sa pang-araw-araw na gastusin ng kanilang pamilya. Palagay ko, mas kailangang mabigyang prayoridad ito dahil ito talaga ang hinahanap at kailangan ng ating mga kababayan,” he added.

His second point was that the source of the wealth fund should come from the surplus or excess budget and not the pensions of the workers. He explained, “Ang ginagamit na pondo para sa isang sovereign wealth fund ay karaniwang surplus o sobra ng budget dahil may posibilidad na malugi ang isang sovereign wealth fund. Klaro na hindi dapat galing sa mga pensyon ng mga manggagawa ang mga pinagkukuhanan nito.”

Aquino explained that the Senate has the chance to work on the provision and consider the timing of the passage of the bill. It’s also important to create safeguards against corruption and ensure it will benefit the majority of the Filipino people.

What is the Maharlika Wealth Fund?

The proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund of House Bill No. 6398 intends to create a P250-billion “wealth fund” or pool of money for the government by asking state-owned pension funds like Government Service Insurance Systems (GSIS) and Social Security Systems (SSS) banks, and other sources for investments.

The bill was proposed by presidential cousin Speaker Martin Romualdez and presidential son Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos. Under the proposal, here’s the breakdown of the possible funds’ sources:
  • GSIS - P125 billion
  • SSS - P50 billion
  • Land Bank of the Philippines - P50 billion
  • Development Bank of the Philippines - P25 billion
  • Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas - P25 billion

The BSP’s funds will come from the Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) remittances and the business process outsourcing, or BPO industry. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) will also contribute.

The MWF will serve as a type of "investment fund" for the government, serving as foreign reserves while also assisting in the creation of jobs for Filipinos. Romualdez has an 8-point socioeconomic roadmap on how the MWF will be used in the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The bill has drawn controversy as it may become a source of corruption. The presidential son defended their bill and said their idea is nothing new and has been proposed several times already.

He said, "If you think about it this isn't a new idea. Sec. Diokno already said they were looking at it during the time of Duterte. If I'm not mistaken former Senator Bam Aquino filed a bill in 2016 trying to do the same thing. I guess, my guess is because di naipasa dahil patapos na ang administrasyon ni former President PNoy I believe Senator JV also nagfile ng bill, it's not a new idea."

Even the president’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, admitted her hesitations on the bill. But the younger Marcos explained that he already spoke with his aunt, and they agreed that safeguards and checks and balances should be in place.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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