Philippine Bank Chief Seeks Calm as Peso Weakens to 11-Year Low

  • Currency adjusting to short-term uncertainties, Espenilla says
  • Rules out peso free fall due to economy’s strong fundamentals

Nestor Espenilla.

Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

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Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla called for calm on Sunday after the peso fell to an almost 11-year low against the dollar last week, saying the currency isn’t expected to free fall given the nation’s strong economic fundamentals.

"The peso is market-determined. It’s natural for it to show volatility as it adjusts to market conditions and all the short-term uncertainties such as increased tension in North Korea,” Espenilla said in a phone message to reporters. "We don’t expect it to do a free fall because our economic fundamentals now, unlike before, are solid and very strong."

The peso has lost 2.5 percent this year, making it the worst performer among 12 Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It weakened to 50.98 to the greenback on Friday, the lowest since August 29, 2006. The currency has been dropping as the nation heads to its first current account deficit in 15 years. Geopolitical concerns have also spurred a flight to assets of advanced economies.

Still, the nation enjoys strong domestic demand and is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

"The peso is capable of correcting itself as the market calms down and digests the relevant information," Espenilla said. He added that the central bank can act "strategically" if there’s excess volatility, noting a "huge pile of fx reserves."

Espenilla, who took over as central bank chief last month, also said that the the Philippines, as an emerging market economy seeking to grow, is bound to run moderate current account deficits as it catches up on investments, particularly on infrastructure.

"Lets calm down. We’re on the right track," Espenilla said, rejecting what he termed as "fear-based hand wringing in some of the coverage."

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