MANILA - The Philippines' debt-to-GDP ratio, which soared to 60.5 percent due to the heavy borrowing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, could start declining in 2022, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Tuesday.
Before the outbreak, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte was able to bring down the country's debt-to-GDP ratio to a "historic low" of 39.6 percent in 2019, Dominguez said during the Philippine Economic Briefing 2022.
In 2020, it rose to 54.6 percent and to 60.5 percent in 2021, Dominguez said, adding that "this remains eminently manageable."
Meanwhile, the National Government debt reached P12.09 trillion in February 2022, data showed.
"The disruption brought about by the pandemic is only temporary. Supported by the rebound of revenue collections, our deficit and borrowings will begin to decline for the year," Dominguez said.
Despite the accelerated borrowings, the Philippines was able to maintain its investment grade credit ratings amidst the downgrades among its peers, he said.
Dominguez said this was "a testament to our excellent record of prudent spending and fiscal discipline."
Fitch Ratings earlier affirmed its BBB rating for the Philippines but with a negative outlook, Moody's Investor Services had also maintained its Baa2 rating or one notch above the minimum investment grade, while S&P Global Ratings kept its BBB+ with a stable outlook rating for the country.
An investment-grade rating means the country could access more loans with lower interest rates.
The Finance chief also reiterated the government's confidence in achieving this year's growth target of 7 to 9 percent as the COVID-19 cases continue to decline.
The country's gross domestic product contracted by 9.6 percent in 2020 before recovering to 5.6 percent in 2021.
"As the pandemic subsides, the Philippine economy is now well on its way to rapid recovery," Dominguez said.
Dominguez also said the government is also monitoring the impact of the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine.