MANILA - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr will raise the controversial sovereign wealth fund being proposed by his government at the World Economic Forum (WEF) next week, even though Congress has yet to approve the Bill.
He hopes to discuss the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) with global business leaders attending the WEF in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan 16 to 20.
“It’s really more of a soft launch. It’s to introduce it,” said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs undersecretary Carlos Sorreta at a press briefing on Thursday.
Mr Marcos knows the final version of the Bill may still change, but he already wants to discuss the MIF’s “broad strokes” with potential investors in Davos, said Mr Sorreta, adding: “What’s very important is that it is an investment in the future, and the President has great confidence in the capabilities of Filipinos, Filipino entrepreneurs and local investors.”
Mr Marcos and his congressional allies are pushing for the MIF, patterned after the sovereign wealth funds of other countries like Singapore. But the seed money will be sourced from government financial institutions because the Philippines does not have excess funds like other nations.
The MIF Bill drew widespread criticisms in 2022 over the initial plan to source billions from Filipinos’ pension funds as well as a provision to appoint the incumbent president as chairman of the MIF’s governing board.
Critics feared the MIF could end up becoming like the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund. The multibillion-dollar graft scandal linked to it sent former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak to jail.
The Philippine House of Representatives removed the controversial provisions before approving the MIF Bill in December 2022. Funds will be sourced from the central bank and other state-run banks instead. The finance secretary also replaced the president as chairman of the board.
Mr Marcos has certified the Bill as urgent but the Senate has yet to act on it. The Senate has to approve its own MIF Bill first before he can sign the final version.
Apart from MIF, Mr Marcos and his Cabinet members plan to present before business leaders the country’s economic performance and his government’s priority programmes on nutrition, food security and climate action.
He will also hold meetings with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and other world leaders and executives.
Meanwhile, Mr Marcos is not at all concerned that his WEF trip will revive issues over his family’s ill-gotten wealth that was once deposited into Swiss bank accounts, said Mr Sorreta.
He is the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, whose 21-year rule saw rampant corruption, killings and the disappearances of critics and media censorship in the country.
In 2009, the Philippine commission tasked to go after the Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth was able to recover US$688 million that Mr Marcos Sr deposited into his Swiss bank accounts.
Mr Sorreta said these cases will be a non-issue for the Swiss government during Mr Marcos’ trip.