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BSP-approved foreign loans surged to $17.7 billion in 2020

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) approved $17.7 billion in foreign loans last year mainly meant to support the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery programs.

The BSP said in a statement on Friday that last year’s total is 82.5% higher than the $9.7 billion approved by the Monetary Board in 2019. It attributed the increase to larger bond issuances and program loans last year.

The three bond issues approved by BSP last year amounted to $6.6 billion, surging 88.6% from $3.5 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, BSP-approved program loans surged by 435.7% to $7.5 billion from $1.4 billion.

The Monetary Board is mandated by the Constitution to approve all government foreign loans to be contracted or guaranteed.

In the fourth quarter alone, the BSP approved $4.2 billion in foreign borrowings that were meant to fund initiatives related to the pandemic and disaster risk management, as well as the government’s general operations.
This was higher by 7.7% compared to the $3.9 billion the central bank okayed in the previous quarter.

Bulk of approved loans in the quarter worth $2.8 billion were for the government’s general financing requirements.

Meanwhile, $700 million were program and project loans for the government’s pandemic response. Loans for disaster risk financing ($500 million), customs modernization ($88.3 million), and water transmission improvement ($126 million) were also cleared by the Monetary Board.

The country’s external debt stock rose 5.2% to $92 billion as of end-September from $87.5 billion as of June, latest BSP data showed.

Meanwhile, foreign borrowings jumped 94.5% year on year to P583.64 billion in the January to November 2020 period, based on latest data from the Bureau of the Treasury.

The government is looking to borrow $3 trillion this year to help the pandemic-hit economy recover after it logged its worst contraction on record in 2020. — L.W.T. Noble

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