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Philippines may cut expectations of big Marcos settlement

With prospects bleak for recovering most of Ferdinand Marcos' fortune, government officials may lower their expectations and negotiate a smaller settlement with his family.

Eleven years after the late dictator's ouster, authorities have recovered less than 10 percent of his presumed wealth - money Marcos is alleged to have siphoned off for himself from the Philippine state and people.Legal protests have stalled attempts to sell 530 companies seized from Marcos' business associates, leaving the government still holding - and controlling - an array of leading corporations including two television stations, several newspapers, a food conglomerate and several banks.

Earlier this month, 17 of the country's 23 senators signed a statement urging the government to quickly negotiate a settlement with the Marcos family but not grant them immunity from criminal suits.

The government says it has been able to recover about $941 million in cash and other assets out of more than $10 billion it says Marcos stole from the nation.

Another $500 million discovered in hidden Swiss bank accounts remains frozen and will not be released by Swiss authorities unless Marcos' widow, Imelda, is convicted of a crime related to the money.

No one is sure of the total value of Marcos' assets, but any substantial recovery would be a windfall for a country being rocked by Asia's financial crisis. The government's $10 billion estimate is about the same as the Philippine central bank's total foreign currency reserves.

The seized, or "sequestered," stock holdings in the largest of the 530 companies are estimated to be worth about $882 million. They include majority shares in San Miguel Corp., the country's largest food and beverage conglomerate, and in a phone company.

Officials say that it is difficult to separate Marcos' assets from those of his associates in these companies.

Marcos' son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., insists the family is not hiding any more of his father's wealth.