Can GSIS, SSS, invest in Maharlika projects? Let’s wait for IRR, Villar says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Senator Mark Villar, the sponsor of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill, on Thursday said the proposed measure’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) will provide clarity on who can really put money in the fund's projects. 

“Let’s wait for the IRR to clarify,” Villar told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “I would not say there is a disconnect. I think it’s just, dapat lang hintayin kung ano ‘yung mga plano kung ano ‘yung (we should wait for the plans and what will be the) IRR and I’m sure once that happens that we have an IRR, things will become much clearer.”

Senators approved on May 31 the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023, which was immediately adopted by the House of Representatives during the bicameral conference of both chambers.

The bill has received criticisms from concerned groups and the public after its initial version included agencies like Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) as sources for the Maharlika fund’s ₱125-billion seed money.

The Congress-approved version clearly states that pension money as well as health insurance cannot be used to bankroll the proposed sovereign wealth account, Villar said.

“As far as the law is concerned, it’s clear, it says there in the law that those SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation), Pag-IBIG, OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), and Philippine Veterans [Affairs Office] are absolutely prohibited whether mandatory or voluntary,” Villar said.

He was referring to a provision under Article, Section 6 of the bill, which prohibits those agencies from putting money into the Maharlika fund.

The bill says agencies "providing for the social security and public health insurance of government employees, private sector workers and employees, and other sectors and subsectors, such as but not limited to the SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth, Pag- IBIG Fund, OWWA, and PVAO Pension Fund shall be absolutely prohibited, whether mandatory or voluntary, to contribute to the capitalization” of the fund.

In another line, it says they will be prohibited "to invest in the MIF."

Villar’s latest statement is contrary to what President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on May 31 that the pension funds can invest if they decide to do so. Finance Sec. Benjamin Diokno on June 5 also said the same, but noted they can only participate on a project basis to tap better returns.

Diokno’s statement was echoed by National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon.

Villar maintained that the latest version is clear enough in prohibiting government social security and health insurance agencies from investing in the fund.

The Congress-approved version is currently being fine-tuned by the Senate secretariat and will be transmitted to Marcos soon for his signature, Villar said.