Lee C. Chipongian

BSP foreign deposits down 39% in 2022

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has withdrawn $3.4 billion of its total currency and deposits in foreign institutions last year, resulting to a 38.7 percent decrease in deposited US dollar reserves.

Based on BSP data as of end-2022, the BSP’s total currency and deposits to foreign institutions amounted to $4.7 billion, lower compared to $8.1 billion in 2021.

Data showed that as of end-December, currency and deposits to other central banks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Bank for International Settlements (BIS) declined 75 percent or by $1.95 billion to $640 million versus $2.59 billion in 2021. Currency and deposits in other foreign banks also dropped 26.3 percent or by $1.45 billion to $4 billion from $5.5 billion.

BSP officials declined to comment or explain the 2022 official reserve assets or currency dealings due to its confidential nature.

They also did not comment on the reduction of “other” reserve assets which decreased in 2022 and its impact on foreign assets and currency, such as financial derivatives and loans to non-bank foreign entities.

These other reserve assets amounted to $9.3 billion in 2022, down by $3.99 billion or 30 percent from $13.29 billion in 2021.

Sources said the BSP was not engaging in the reallocation of reserves since otherwise, the gross international reserves (GIR) should have remained above $100 billion by the end of 2022.

The BSP, said sources, was conducting an outright sale of foreign exchange. But to cushion the impact, the central bank revived the foreign exchange swaps in September and October in 2022 as a last resort to a short term measure. The BSP swaps totalled $810 million in December.

BSP Governor Felipe M. Medalla has said that the BSP is focused on ensuring a stable foreign exchange market and that it has an “unwavering commitment to use the tools at its disposal to stabilize the exchange rate” including its first defense which is the GIR.

To replenish the GIR, the BSP “may tap other sources of dollars” such as the swaps which are long positions in forwards and futures, and banks’ foreign currency deposit units. GIR is composed of foreign investments, gold
holdings, foreign currency reserves as well as IMF holdings and special drawing

The country’s GIR ended 2022 with $96.15 billion which was $12.6 billion or 11.6 percent lower compared to 2021’s $108.8 billion due to the BSP’s US dollar selling to prop up the weakened peso. The lowest GIR level last year was $93 billion.

The peso lost to the strong greenback by as much as 14 percent in 2022 and hit its lowest level on record of P59 on Sept. 29. To prevent the peso from breaching P60, the BSP actively and consistently intervened in the exchange rate market to provide foreign currency liquidity.

The BSP’s Monetary Board also raised the benchmark borrowing rate by 350 basis points in 2022 to maintain a decent interest rate differential between the BSP rate and the US Federal Reserve rate which will benefit the peso vis-à-vis the US dollar.

Presently, the peso is trading at the P54-55 range. Meanwhile, as of end-January 2023, the GIR is back to the $100 billion level with BSP resuming its US dollar accumulation in the last quarter of 2022.

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