MANILA—The Philippines’ outstanding external debt stood at $98.5 billion by end of 2020, the country’s central bank said Friday, amid heavy borrowing by government to finance its COVID-19 response.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said $6.5 billion or 7.1 percent of that debt was accumulated in the 4th quarter of the year.
According to BSP data, public sector external debt rose to $58.1 billion in the final quarter of 2020 from $54.4 billion in the previous quarter. Of the $58.1 billion, $51.9 billion were loans by the national government while the remaining $6.3 billion were borrowed by state-run and government-owned corporations, financial institutions and the BSP.
The central bank noted private sector external debt rose to $40.4 billion at the end of the year from $37.6 billion at the end of September. According to the BSP, the increase was due largely to net availments of private banks and by private non-banks.
Major creditors were Japan ($15.9 billion), the United States ($3.4 billion), the United Kingdom ($3.3 billion) and the Netherlands ($3.0 billion).
According to the BSP, loans in the form of bonds or notes had the largest portion of the total outstanding debt at 35.6 percent.
The country’s debt remains largely denominated in the US dollar at 56.7 percent and the Japanese yen at 11.8 percent, the central bank said.
The maturity profile of the country’s external debt remained predominantly medium and long-term (MLT) in nature, the BSP said, despite the increase in borrowings this year to finance the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.
Earlier this March, the Bureau of Treasury said the Philippine government's total debt hit P10.3 trillion ($212 billion) at the end of January this year, up 5.4 percent increment compared to the end of December last year,
The month-on-month increase in the debt stock was predominantly due to the reavailment of the P540 billion short-term loan facility from the BSP, the Treasury said.
Despite the hefty loans, the Philippines has the second highest tally of infections and deaths due to the disease in Southeast Asia. It was also the last in the region to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Philippine economy, which suffered its worst contraction since the Second World War, is also seen to recover more slowly than its neighbors.