Central bank chief Nestor Espenilla passes away

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2019 10:57 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2019 10:44 AM

MANILA - Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. died on Saturday after battling tongue cancer for more than a year, the central bank confirmed on Sunday. He was 60.

In a statement, the BSP said its chief passed away "surrounded by members of his family."

Espenilla was survived by his wife, Maria Teresita Festin Espenilla; daughter, Jacqueline Joyce, and son-in-law, Ben Baltazar; sons Nikko Nestor and Leonardo Nestor; and, grandchild, Zev Eron, the BSP added.    

Espenilla, who was appointed by President Duterte in July 2017, resumed his duties as central bank chief late last month after taking another medical leave for more than 2 weeks in January.

Espenilla announced his cancer diagnosis in February 2018 and said he underwent radiation therapy. He disclosed then that he was declared "cancer-free" by his doctors after surgery, and that he expected ""more or less a full recovery in a month or so." He said the radiation therapy was for "insurance."

He also revealed that the treatment caused dry throat and mouth sores leading to speaking difficulties.

BSP appoints OIC

In a special meeting held on Saturday, the BSP said the "Monetary Board designated Deputy Governor Almasara Cyd Tuano-Amador as BSP Officer-in-Charge (OIC) effective immediately until such time that President Rodrigo Duterte shall have designated an OIC or appointed a successor."    

Under Espenilla's watch, the Monetary Board raised the benchmark interest rate by 1.75 points in 5 successive policy meetings, bringing the overnight borrowing rate used by banks to price loans to 4.75 percent from 3 percent.

Espenilla took over from former BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. He was previously deputy governor for the supervision and examination sector, in charge of disciplining banks.

He pushed for an electronic fund transfer system called InstaPay and an automated clearing house dubbed PESONet under a broader regulatory framework, the National Retail Payment System.

A "digital" highway for payments, he said, would make financial services closer to Filipinos who transact mostly using non-bank channels.

Espenilla graduated magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Economics, as well as an MBA. He also finished a Master of Science degree in Policy Science from the Graduate Institute of Policy Science (GRIPS) in Tokyo, Japan.