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Budget chief assumes new central bank role on March 7

New Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno holds his last press conference as Budget Secretary on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Photo grabbed from DBM Twitter)

Beleaguered Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, who has been appointed as the new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor, will take his oath of office Wednesday evening, March 6, 2019, and assume his new role at the central bank Thursday morning, March 7.

He will preside over his first Monetary Board meeting on the same day. The Monetary Board is expected to review the central bank’s policy rates, which are at an all-time high in a decade.

Key interest rates were raised five times in 2018, with the overnight reverse repurchase (RRP) facility increasing to 4.75%, in a bid to tame inflation caused by high global oil prices, inadequate supply of rice and the implementation of this administration’s first tax reform package Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

The Monetary Board has kept policy rates steady since December 2018, when inflation also started to slow down. Inflation further eased to 3.8% in February 2019, moving back within the government’s target band of 2% to 4% for 2019-2020 for the first time in a year.

In his last Breakfast with Ben press conference on Wednesday, March 6, Diokno introduced Undersecretary Janet Abuel as acting Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Diokno, who has been accused of “pork barrel insertions” in the 2019 budget, has had two tours of duty as Budget Secretary, first in 1998 to 2001 under the Joseph E. Estrada administration and from July 2016 to March 5, 2019 under the Rodrigo R. Duterte administration. He also served as DBM undersecretary during the Corazon C. Aquino administration from 1986 to 1991.

He will succeed the late Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr., who passed away after a year of battling tongue cancer, and serve the remainder of Espenilla’s six-year term until 2023.

As central bank chief, Diokno is expected to spearhead reform initiatives that will align the financial institution’s operations with international best practices and improve its corporate viability, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo said Duterte announced the appointment of Diokno to the central bank at the start of the 35th Cabinet Meeting on Monday, March 4.

In his statement, Panelo said Diokno provided technical assistance to several major reforms such as the design of the 1986 Tax Reform Program during the Corazon C. Aquino administration.

Under the Estrada administration, Diokno instituted several reforms, including the adoption of information and communications technology in the government procurement system. (Ventures Cebu)

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