Finance chief Diokno: BSP will be stable even if dividends go to Maharlika

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas would remain financially healthy despite being one of the major contributors to the proposed sovereign wealth fund of the Marcos Jr. administration, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

In a statement sent to journalists Friday, Diokno said the BSP’s finances are much stronger now than when its revised charter was being deliberated.

To support his argument, Diokno cited the BSP’s interest-free lending to the government amounting to P540 billion at the height of pandemic lockdowns — a move that was done when he was still the central bank governor.

“The BSP was granted additional tools to conduct its primary mandates,” he said. “That’s how good, BSP’s finances are.”

According to two senators, the House of Representatives agreed to adopt the Senate’s version of a bill creating what would be known as the “Maharlika Investment Fund”. Senators stayed up past midnight to approve the controversial legislation, which President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. identified as an urgent and priority measure.

READ: Maharlika fund clears Senate hurdle

With pension funds explicitly barred from investing in Maharlika, the Senate’s version of the bill counts the BSP, the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines as major funders.

If signed into law, the measure will require the BSP to contribute 100% of its dividends to Maharlika in the fund’s first two years. After that, the central bank’s contribution drops to 50% of its dividends, with the remaining 50% to be deposited into a special account holding the BSP’s capital buildup funds.

Diokno said the contributions being asked from BSP for the first two years would be a maximum of P50 billion.

“That’s the net profit of BSP and the NG (national government) decides how to use it. I estimate that BSP’s dividend for the NG in 2022 would be in the neighborhood of P30 billion,” he said.

At one of the Senate panel hearings on Maharlika, BSP Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila said the central bank could take 14 years to be fully capitalized if it contributes to Maharlika “as opposed to about half of that” if it doesn’t pitch in to the fund.