Philippines back on CalPERS list After unstable period, retirement fund will invest there again

By Martha Mendoza The Associated Press
Tuesday May 14, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The nation’s largest public pension fund can once again invest in Filipino stocks after the ambassador of that nation convinced financial analysts that his country’s economy is solid. 

The California Public Employees Retirement System board — which manages the $150 billion fund — unanimously decided Monday to return the Philippines to its permissible country list. 

“CalPERS is a bellwether for investors the world over and has enormous impact on the marketplace,” said Albert del Rosario, Philippine ambassador to the United States. 

CalPERS decided in February to pull $15.2 million out of Filipino stocks after the board adopted a new policy to only invest in international stocks in countries that met strict criteria for political stability, financial transparency and labor standards. As a result, Hungary and Poland were added to the permissible list, while Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand were deleted. 

The move prompted several Asian finance ministers, fearing the move would prompt others to pull out as well, to head to CalPERS last month to beg for their financial future. 

During meetings last month, Philippines finance officials, along with the ambassador, convinced CalPERS to put them back on the list. Specifically, the Filipino representatives were able to prove that they settle stock exchange transactions within three days of the trade date, not significantly longer as the earlier analysis had indicated, said CalPERS chief investment officer Mark Anson. 

Philippines Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho said Monday that the return to the approved list affirms that his nation’s economic plan is on track and that they are making progress in their efforts to rebuild their economy. 

In 1998, the Philippine economy — based mostly on farming, light industry, and support services — began to crash under pressure from the Asian financial crisis and a bout of bad weather. The government enacted economic reforms that included an overhaul of the tax system and moving toward further deregulation and privatization of the economy. 

Camacho said CalPERS’ decision is a “recognition that we have established political and economic stability and we have been successful in reining in inflation and managing our fiscal deficit.”