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Philippines Monetary Policy August 2023

Philippines: Central Bank delivers hawkish pause in August

At its 17 August meeting, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) left the overnight reverse repurchase facility rate unchanged at 6.25% for the third consecutive meeting, in line with market expectations. Simultaneously, the rates on the overnight deposit and lending facilities—which establish the floor and ceiling of the interest rate corridor—remained at 5.75% and 6.75%, respectively.

August’s pause—the first decision under the new Central Bank Governor Eli Remolona—aimed to balance risks to inflation and economic growth. The Bank still expected inflation would return within its 2.0–4.0% target range in Q4 2023, deeming an extended pause to the tightening cycle appropriate. At the same time, the BSP said risks to inflation were skewed to the upside, including higher transport prices and minimum wages, stubborn supply constraints on key food items and the El Niño weather phenomenon threatening to push up food and electricity prices. August’s decision was also influenced by a disappointing GDP outturn for Q2 released a week earlier, which saw a broad-based loss of momentum in domestic activity. This development, coupled with projections for even weaker economic growth ahead, led the Bank to leave its policy rate unchanged.

In its communique, the Bank stated that it remained “prepared to respond as necessary to safeguard the inflation target”, prioritizing price stability over economic growth. Additionally, in a briefing following the meeting, Governor Remolona struck a hawkish tone, noting that the BSP was ready to resume its tightening cycle if needed and ruling out a rate cut at its upcoming meeting on 21 September.

Our panel aligns unanimously with this view, expecting a fourth consecutive hold in September and rate cuts from Q1 2024. Nevertheless, a stronger-than-expected El Niño fueling food and energy inflation, as well as intensifying depreciatory pressures on the Philippine peso, could result in further rate hikes later this year.

Nicholas Mapa, analyst at ING, commented on the outlook:

“We expect BSP to retain policy rates at these levels for the remainder of the year as the Central Bank looks to balance the risks to growth and inflation. However, we could see BSP considering a rate hike down the line should the US Federal Reserve opt to increase policy rates before the end of the year in order to maintain interest rate differentials.”

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