CLARK FIELD, Pampanga, Manila, August 13, 2003 (STAR) By Ding Cervantes  - The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has assured its 1.5 million members that it is in the pink of financial health with P181 billion in available funds for investment.

This as it announced that all loan applications and retirement benefits pending since May would be processed starting Friday.

GSIS vice president for public affairs Mernito Razimo told The STAR that the agency is also set to allocate some P20 billion for a loan window called the retirement loan program.

This, he said, is apart from P6 billion allocated for housing loans. Razimo stressed that the GSIS has already scrapped the P500,000 maximum limit for housing loans and GSIS members can now avail of any amount depending on their capacity to pay.

The GSIS froze the processing of salary and policy loans, as well as retirement benefits of its members last May to pave the way for its full computerization. The move has led to speculations that the agency has run short of cash.

Razimo explained that the GSIS would not consider offering the new retirement loan program if it is short of liquidity. The new loan scheme would be available to GSIS members starting September but would be limited to those who have been members for at least 15 years.

Under this new loan program, members could borrow cash from the GSIS with the payment to be deducted from their retirement benefits.

Apart from the P181-billion investments fund, Razimo said the GSIS also has about P13 billion raised from the insurance programs covering government properties.

"This is the amount we earned from the insurance of government buildings. If fire does not down a building, the insurance paid by the government agency that owns the building accrues as profit for us," Razimo explained.

Through this fund, the GSIS was able to buy some famous paintings by Filipino artists including Juan Lunaís "Parisian Life," which was acquired for P45.4 million.

"Some politicians have exploited the issue, but itís an investment thatís worth it," he said, pointing out that eight paintings by Fernando Amorsolo bought by the GSIS at P10,000 each in 1976 now fetches P2.5 million each.

He said that paintings bought by the GSIS go on public display, with no fees charged on viewers.

"There are those who say that the P45.4z million should have been instead distributed to its members as benefits, but if we did that, our 1.5 million members would get only about P3 each," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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