Sale of Imelda gems considered for COVID funds
Malacañang on Thursday said it was considering selling some P700 million worth of jewelry seized from former first lady Imelda Marcos to help raise funds for the government’s response to the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtal press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the auction of part of the Marcoses’ collection of gems, said to be part of the family’s ill-gotten wealth, was raised even before the COVID-19 crisis broke out.
As early as May last year, President Duterte had authorized the public auction of the Marcos jewelry collection worth some P700 million.
The “Hawaii Collection,” presently secured at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, includes a Cartier diamond tiara and a 25-carat “extremely rare” pink diamond. Consisting of 300 pieces of jewelry, the Hawaii Collection is one of three jewelry collections of the former first lady.
In a recent speech, Mr. Duterte said he was open to selling government assets such as the Philippine International Convention Center, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and other properties on Roxas Boulevard to fund the government’s response to COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown that has left millions of households dependent on food and relief packs from the social welfare department.
Roque said this gesture only showed that the President was giving “primary importance to the health of the people.”
“The people’s health is important to him, so if he needs to sell those infrastructure, he will use the proceeds to take care of the people’s health,” Roque said of the Chief Executive.
The Palace dismissed the proposal of Sen. Imee Marcos for the government to temporarily suspend loan payments to foreign lenders so that the money could be used to extend more aid to families and companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis.The senator’s proposal had been previously rejected by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
“That’s not an option being considered by the government because it will have big repercussions. We have cross-default provisions in our debts, in which if we default on one debt, we will default on all our debts,” Roque said.
“It will be bloodier for us if our lenders decide to make us pay back all the debts at the same time,” he added.
Roque assured anew that the government has enough funds for now, and that there was no need to stop paying the country’s foreign debt.
“And if (the money) is not enough, the government will first sell its assets before we default on our obligations,” the Palace official said.
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