Maharlika fund

In Malaysia, Marcos makes pitch for Maharlika fund

Bea Cupin

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In Malaysia, Marcos makes pitch for Maharlika fund

VISIT. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at Malaysia's administrative center in Putrajaya on July 26, 2023.

Afiq Hambali/Prime Minister's Office/Handout

Asked if anybody was interested in the Maharlika Fund, Marcos didn’t go into specifics, only saying that 'everyone' has expressed interest

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continued his push for the Maharlika Investment Fund, a controversial sovereign fund that he said is a “bold step towards our country’s meaningful economic transformation,” even in a country that’s still dealing with the aftermath of an ill-managed sovereign wealth fund.

“Their experience here is not going to be a detriment. In fact, it is a way for them to – they are the most careful of all,” Marcos told reporters on Thursday, July 27, when asked if he had pitched the Maharlika fund to business personalities in Malaysia during a three-day state visit.

“So, as long as you can assure them that what their poor experience was here, the terrible things that happened here, hindi mangyayari sa fund natin (won’t happen to our fund),” he added.

The “poor experience” Marcos was referring to is the 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a fund created under the watch of former prime minister Najib Razak. It was later discovered that much of the money raised by the government-owned company was allegedly embezzled. The US has called the scandal “kleptocracy at its worst.”

The Maharlika fund, a brainchild of Marcos, breezed through both chambers of the 19th Congress, despite its controversies. It was signed on July 18, just before Marcos delivered his second State of the Nation Address.

Despite criticism of the newly-created fund, Marcos has insisted that safeguards are in place and that, so long as the right managers are assigned to helm it, it should be run professionally and “without undue political influence.”

“I think the assumption is that everyone has learned the lessons from that… from what happened with their own – well, one, one of their own, they have more than one… one of their own sovereign funds, and will do everything they can to avoid falling into the same situation,” he said.

Asked if anybody in Malaysia was interested in the Maharlika fund, Marcos didn’t go into specifics, only saying that “everyone” has expressed interest.

Accompanying Marcos to Malaysia were legislators who were instrumental to its passage – his cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez; his son, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander Marcos; and Senator Mark Villar, who sponsored the measure in the Senate.

Early versions of the measure designated the president as the chairman of the fund. That has since been tweaked, partly due to criticism of the proposed sovereign fund. Instead, the Maharlika Investment Fund will be chaired by the finance secretary, who is also picked by the Philippine president.

Despite repeated assurances that good managers will be assigned to the fund, Marcos has not said who they’d be. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.