By Keisha B. Ta-asan, Reporter

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) is looking to limit its foreign exchange intervention on markets by finalizing a new framework this year, its chief said on Thursday.

In his first public event this year at the Rotary Club’s weekly meeting, BSP Governor Eli M. Remolona, Jr. said the central bank aims to make the peso more competitive and reduce restrictions in the foreign exchange market.

“We’re developing a framework for intervention… We think intervention should only happen during times of stress. It’s meant to contain stress,” he said.

Mr. Remolona told reporters that BSP Senior Assistant Governor Edna C. Villa will head the central bank’s Financial Markets department, replacing retired Ma. Ramona Gertrudes D.T. Santiago. 

The foreign exchange framework will also be implemented this year, he said.

The BSP chief has instructed Ms. Villa to identify the Philippines’ peers in the region when it comes to movements against the dollar.

“We want to do things in the right way. We want to do things based on fundamentals and also based on what we know is going on in the markets,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Remolona noted that October 2022 was a stressful episode for the central bank and the foreign exchange market. 

“Those are the events in which we want to intervene,” he said. “I think we’ve been intervening a bit too much. If it’s about containing stress, that also means intervention should be infrequent.”

In October 2022, the peso reached its record low of P59 against the dollar. This also caused the peso to add to inflationary pressures during that time, which prompted the BSP to intervene in the foreign exchange market and raise interest rates. 

The peso has since rebounded to the P55 level, closing at P55.50 against the dollar on Thursday.

To tame inflation, the Monetary Board hiked borrowing costs by 450 basis points (bps) from May 2022 to October 2023. This has brought the key interest rate to 6.5%, its highest in 16 years.

Mr. Remolona said the current 6.5% policy rate is still appropriate to ensure growth and tame inflation at the same time. 

“People say we’ve been tightening too much… that’s a very difficult challenge because we want to make sure that we don’t tighten unnecessarily,” he said.

However, the BSP chief said there are still upside risks to inflation, but he is hoping that inflation will settle within the 2-4% target range for most of 2024.

BSP sees inflation settling at an average of 6% in 2023, before easing to 3.7% in 2024 and 3.2% in 2025.

A BusinessWorld poll last week yielded a median estimate of 4% for December headline inflation, within the BSP’s 3.6-4.4% forecast for the month. This is slightly slower than 4.1% in November but significantly below 8.1% in December 2022.

If realized, December could mark the first time that inflation met the central bank’s 2-4% target after 20 straight months. It would also be the slowest since the 3% print in February 2022.

This would bring the 2023 inflation average to 6%, matching the BSP’s baseline forecast.

The Philippine Statistics Authority will release December consumer price index data on Friday.