New BSP chief: fluent in Filipino, basketball–savvy


THE new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor is as Filipino as they come from his use of the mother tongue to making basketball references in his first official speech at the central bank.

On Monday, Eli M. Remolona Jr. officially took over the reins of the central bank. He is the 7th BSP Governor since the enactment of the New Central Bank Act in 1993.

Remolona spent 14 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and 19 years at the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland and Hong Kong. He also taught in the United States and Malaysia, and earned his PhD in economics from Stanford University.

In his remarks on taking the helm of central bank, Remolona said he would focus on two things: continuity of the good done in the past; and bettering the work.

“Sa unang araw ko naman bilang BSP Governor, may dalawang puntos akong nais ibahagi. Ang unang puntos po ay PAGPAPATULOY. Together we must build on the progress we have already made,” Remolona said.

“Ang pangalawang puntos po ay PAGPAPABUTI. I know we’re all eager to work even harder. I know we have what it takes to do even better—especially if we work together,” he added.

Remolona said the banking system has remained strong and the country’s capital and liquidity are “more than adequate.” He said this has made Philippine banks a source of strength for the economy as it recovered from the pandemic.

This good performance, Remolona said, should continue but the BSP should also strive to do better. To illustrate his point, he recalled the recent National Basketball Association (NBA) finals which was won by the Denver Nuggets.

“Naalala niyo ba yung finals ng NBA—noong Hunyo? Ang pakiramdam ko para tayong Denver Nuggets. Diba ang galing nila, lalo na si Nikola Jokic? Pero sa game 2 parang natsambahan sila ng Miami Heat. Kaya sabi siguro ni Coach Michael Malone sa Nuggets, ‘sana galingan pa natin para hindi tayo matsambahan!’ Sana sa BSP rin, galingan pa natin para hindi tayo matsambahan!” Remolona said.

[Do you recall the NBA finals in June? I feel like we’re the Denver Nuggets. Weren’t they great, espcially Nokila Jokic? But in Game 2, the Miami Heat stole the thunder from them. Coach Michael Malone must have told the Nuggets, ‘let’s all do better, so this won’t happen again!’ So, also, here in BSP, I hope we all do better so that we don’t lose by chance].

Remolona ended his speech by quoting the BSP hymn: Ang layunin mo ay sadyang wagas/ Antas ng buhay ay iyong itaas/ Sa kaunlarang di magwawakas.

Meanwhile, his predecessor, Felipe M. Medalla, said BSP was “very very fortunate to have him [Remolona] here.” In a previous press chat, Medalla told reporters that he and Remolona rarely had differences in voting when it came to central bank matters.

In his speech, Medalla provided highlights of his one-year stint as BSP Governor, the culmination of a total of 12 years serving the central bank. Before becoming Governor, Medalla was part of the Monetary Board for 11 years.

“As Covid-19 lingered and work-from-home arrangements continued, we managed to ensure the uninterrupted supply of money across our country, kept the banking system strong and stable, made our financial system even more inclusive, battled record-high inflation—by the way, at the rate it’s going, 18 straight months of above-target inflation, three months longer than the previous record—and helped provide stability to our economy. We did these together!” Medalla said.

A key highlight of his term was that the BSP raised the policy rates by a total of 350 basis points (bps), on top of the 75 bps already taken before he became Governor. These rate hikes eventually made the BSP one of, if not the most aggressive central bank in terms of monetary policy.

Medalla said the BSP also sold foreign exchange, a measure previously frowned upon by multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, foreign exchange intervention (FXI) has since been accepted and “become standard language in the IMF.”

The turnover ceremonies, which were not open to the public, coincided with the 30th anniversary of the BSP. It was attended by the economic team including Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.