Marcos Jr. administration

Marcos eyes Maharlika fund ‘soft launch’ at WEF in Switzerland  

Bea Cupin

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Marcos eyes Maharlika fund ‘soft launch’ at WEF in Switzerland  

PHILIPPINE LEADER. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Cindy Liu/Reuters

The Philippine President plans to ‘introduce’ the proposed sovereign fund even if the Senate has yet to tackle it

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. plans to do a “soft launch” his administration’s proposed Maharlika Investment Fund during his five-day visit to snowy Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Marcos, who flies out of Manila on January 15 and returns on the 20th, will be attending the annual event that brings together political and business elite from all over the world. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Carlos Sorreta calls the WEF the “premiere forum” for leaders to interact and discuss solutions to issues hounding the world economy. 

In a briefing on Thursday, January 12, Sorreta said Marcos himself wants the spotlight on the proposed sovereign wealth fund. Sorreta and other DFA officials were in Malacañang prior to the media briefing to talk to the President about the upcoming Davos trip. 

“The WEF is a great venue to do a sort of soft launch for our sovereign wealth fund, given the prominence of the forum itself and the global and business leaders who will be there, and they will hear directly from the President the fundamentals that we have that led us to decide that we should have a sovereign wealth fund,” said Sorreta. 

The proposed Maharlika Investment Fund is a sovereign wealth fund that will source its seed capital from state-owned banks and be used to invest in big-ticket infrastructure projects or the power sector. It hurdled the Marcos-allied supermajority-dominated House in December 2022, but has not been tackled in the Senate. 

Earlier versions of the proposed fund would have sourced initial funds from pensions held by the state – a provisions that critics and observers said was irresponsible and irregular, since it would put hard-earned pensions in danger. This was eventually scrapped, but critics have still decried the speed in which the proposal breezed through the legislative process. 

Chairmanship of the fund has also been switched from the President himself to the finance secretary, who still reports to the President. Most of all, critics are worried over the lack of safety guards in the proposed fund. Its authors and supporters, who include President Marcos’ relatives in the legislature, say enough safeguards are in place. 

Sorreta said that since the measure is only a proposal, the “soft launch” at the WEF means Marcos will “introduce” to fellow world leaders and the business elite its concept.  

“My understanding is that it will be broad strokes. We have to leave the specifics to the legislation. We are working with the Department of Finance and [Department of] Trade to come up with very precise, targeted messages…in terms of broad strokes. We’re not handing out brochures and packets. It’s going to be the President himself bringing it to the world, the idea what we will be having this [fund],” said Sorreta. 

Marcos will be the only world leader from Southeast Asia and only one of two from Asia who has confirmed attendance to the WEF, said the DFA. 

The Philippine government frames this trip as a chance for Marcos to represent both the country and the region as spaces for economic growth. 

Sorreta said the trip comes “at a time when our country and our region is recovering well from past challenges, and when projections remain high for economic growth in our country and our region.” In summits such as ASEAN, regional leaders and observers have been pushing the region as a bright spot for economic growth amid a global downturn. 

While some economic indicators in the Philippines have improved in the past months, one of the indicators that ordinary Filipinos feel the most – food prices – have not. Inflation hit a 14-year high in December 2022, fueled by rising cost of food. 

Emblematic of this has been the price of onions in the Philippines – as much as P600 or $10.90 for a kilo, when the global average is at around $1.54 or around P84.87.

Palace press briefer Daphne Oseña-Paez, quoting the President from their earlier meeting, said it was “time for the Philippines, since we’re at the world stage, to let them know what our country is doing in terms of being ready and attractive for investments.”

Marcos himself seemed unsure about attending WEF in Davos back in November 2022, or right after WEF founder Krause Schwab invited him to attend the gathering.

“The real decision there is really going to be, if we are going to ask people to come to the Philippines, who are going to invest in the Philippines, are we ready for them?” Marcos told media in Cambodia, right after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit there. 

Top of mind for Marcos then, too, was the frequency of his travels. The trip to Davos for WEF will be his 8th official work trip as President. Not counting Switzerland, Marcos has been to seven different countries in his first seven months of office. He most recently flew to Beijing for a 48-hour state visit to China. – 

1 comment

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  1. FB

    Maybe BBM would like the position of Sec of Dept of Tourism?

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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.