Philippines' sovereign debt hits P12.76 trillion in April

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2022 01:59 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2022 07:25 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) — The national government's total outstanding debt reached P12.76 trillion as of the end of April from P12.68 trillion the previous month, the Bureau of Treasury said Thursday.

The total is 0.7 percent or P83.40 billion higher due to the net issuance of government securities to both local and external lenders and the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar, the BTr said in a statement. 

Out of the total debt stock, 30 percent was sourced externally while 70 percent were domestic borrowings, it added.

The P8.93 trillion domestic debt in April was 0.8 percent higher compared to March while the external debt of P3.83 trillion was 0.4 percent higher from the previous month, Treasury said.

The country's debt-to-GDP ratio hit 63.5 percent in March, which is higher than the global standard of 60 percent.

Since assuming power, President Rodrigo Duterte has more than doubled the country’s debt from just P5.95 trillion at the end of June 2016.

'NO REASON TO FEAR'

But Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Tina Canda on Thursday said there was no reason to fear debt that was incurred with "clear purpose."

The Philippines borrowed heavily during the pandemic to fund isolation facilities, hospital beds, cash assistance and other COVID-19 programs that weren't part of the spending plan.

"Ang utang kasi hindi dapat katakutan kung may dahilan kung bakit tayo may utang… Ang susunod naman nyan ay hahanap tayo ng paraan paano bayaran ang utang natin," Canda said.

(Debt should not be feared if there is reason to borrow. The next thing would be finding ways to pay for our debt.)

She said the country's economic managers have also ensured that the debts are "reasonable" and that the Philippines has the capacity to pay for them in the future.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier said the country's economic growth could easily outweigh its debt.

Options in raising revenues to pay for debt include raising taxes as well as ensuring further economic recovery. An enhanced tax collection is also a likely option, Canda said. 

The Finance Department has proposed a plan to pay the debt in the near term, which includes widening taxes and the deferment of personal income tax reductions, among others.

But raising taxes while most Filipinos are still suffering from the impact of the pandemic seems untimely, she said.

"Wag muna itaas ang buwis kasi nagdaan sa maraming trial ang ating mga kababayan. Parang hindi pa tama na itasas at this point," she said.

(Let us not raise taxes since Filipinos have been through a lot of trials. Hiking taxes doesn't seem right at this point)

The incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr faces the responsibility of paying the country's ballooning debt while maintaining an accelerated pace of economic recovery.

In a statement, Malacañang said that "reducing" the government's debt remains a priority, adding that Duterte's economic team has proposed a fiscal consolidation and resource mobilization plan, which contains "fair, efficient, and corrective tax measures."

"These include the expansion of the value-added tax base by removing ineffective VAT exemptions except for some sectors, among others, to generate revenues," said acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar.

These proposals, however, are still subject to the approval of the next administration, Andanar said.

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