SENATOR Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada wants to clearly identify the resources for the proposed P275 billion sovereign wealth fund as senators have yet to iron out kinks and hold public debates to discuss the matter.
Estrada, in an interview on Saturday, clarified that he is not against the approval of the proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF), which will draw resources primarily from contributions from state pension funds and state-owned lenders.
“We still have to see the need for it,” he said, adding: “We have to scrutinize it. We have to debate it extensively, at ako personally, marami din akong pwedeng maitanong tungkol dyan sa MWF na ‘yan,” Estrada said.
Estrada said the question of safety and risk should be foremost especially if funds are coming from GSIS or SSS.
“If they’re going to get it from GSIS, SSS, are we going to risk the pensions of our pensioners? Bakit nagmamadali na maaprubahan ito bago magbakasyon eh marami pa tayong katanungan ukol dyan sa Maharlika Wealth Fund na ‘yan,” he said.
The veteran lawmaker also urged colleagues to exercise caution given the case of Malaysia when its state-owned investment fund 1MDB, which was supposed to promote development, was channeled into the personal bank account of former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“I’m not saying na mangyayari dito sa Pilipinas ‘yan no. Kailangan siguro maglagay pa tayo ng additional safety nets o safeguards kung maa-approve itong MWF na ito,” Estrada said.
With only two weeks left before Congress goes on Christmas break and numerous questions that have to be answered, Estrada expressed pessimism about whether the bill can be approved by the Senate.
“That is my opinion right now. Kasi bakit naman minamadali? We only have two weeks to go and this entails a lot of funds, this amounts to P275 billion. ‘Yung budget nga ng Pilipinas tatlong linggo naming pinag-uusapan, pinag dedebatehan, ito pa kayang P275 billion? Madalian? That can wait naman,” he stressed.
Estrada backed Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s position to have the matter studied carefully by a select group of senators and provide the upper chamber feedback on the essence of the MWF.
“Pabor ako dyan. It will determine the pros and cons ng MWF and kung aatasan ni Senate President ‘yung ibang senators concerned, siguro sana mabigyan lang tayo ng timetable kung kailan nila matatapos ‘yung pag-aaral at pagsusuri nitong MWF,” he said.
On the matter of the bill being an initiative of the President, Estrada said it is incumbent upon lawmakers to scrutinize the nitty-gritty of the measure, ensuring the necessary safeguards to protect the utilization of the funds.
“Kaya naman tayo hinalal bilang mga senador para makita kung ano ‘yung mga loopholes. Kung talagang kinakailangan at aprubado naman sa both Houses at merong necessary safeguards saka safety nets sa MWF, why not? Kung makakatulong naman sa ating kababayan,” he said.