MANILA — Senators on Monday urged more public consultation regarding the proposal from the House of Representatives to establish a "Maharlika Wealth Fund" that would come from pension funds.
Billions of pesos in contributions from Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) members could be invested into the proposed sovereign wealth fund.
Public consultations and securing the consent of the owners of these funds are “the minimum [steps] that should be done,” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said.
Sen. Nancy Binay said SSS and GSIS members expect that they could rely on their contributions once they retire from work.
“Mahalagang malaman kung ano ang magiging epekto ng wealth fund sa perang ipinundar natin nang matagal, na isinantabi para makapamuhay pa rin tayo kahit wala nang trabaho,” she said.
(It's important to know how the wealth fund would affect the money that we've saved for a long time and set aside so we could have a means of living even when we no longer have jobs.)
For Binay, consultation must also involve other sectors.
“Ano ba ang opinyon ng academe, ng mga expert, at ng mga kababayan nating maapektuhan nito? This is a policy that will affect us all, kaya't sana'y hindi tayo magmadali sa pagpasa nito. Talakayin natin ang pros and cons at busisiing mabuti,” Binay said.
(What is the opinion of the academe, experts, and our compatriots who will be affected by this? This is a policy that will affect us all, so I hope we don't rush passing this. Let us thoroughly discuss the pros and cons.)
Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the Maharlika fund "is a high risk, high reward endeavor" and "there should be safeguards and limitations on investment into riskier endeavors."
"Accessing contributions of pension funds would be a ticklish issue and may encounter some obstacles,” he acknowledged.
Sen. JV Ejercito, who filed a similar bill during his first stint in the Senate, admitted that he was also “apprehensive” about the Maharlika fund primarily because it would tap pension funds.
“I am apprehensive to touch pension funds because of past experience with AFPSLAI, AMSLAI and RSBS which ventured into bad investments," he said, referring to the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association Inc., Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc., and the Armed Forces' Retirement and Separation Benefits System.
“The intent of Maharlika Bill seems good, except that I am wary to use GSIS & SSS Funds for this purpose,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the Maharlika fund should be thoroughly discussed before arriving at a final decision.
“We must protect the retirement funds and other benefits of ordinary workers, who are already struggling from high prices of basic goods and are bracing for the impending global recession. We look forward to hearing more views from different stakeholders when we discuss this proposal in the Senate,” Villanueva said.
Sen. Francis Escudero also pointed out the need to scrutinize the proposed measure because “the current bill is lacking in many respects.”
Under the proposal, the Maharlika Investment Fund will get allocations from the following government financial institutions:
- P125 billion from GSIS
- P50 billion from SSS
- P50 billion from Land Bank of the Philippines
- P25 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines
- P25 billion from the National Treasury
The President will chair the government corporation that would handle the fund.
— Report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News