The country’s overall balance of payments (BOP) position yielded a surplus of US$2.44 billion in December 2018, significantly higher than the US$917 million surplus in the same month of the previous year. Inflows in December 2018 stemmed mainly from the BSP’s foreign exchange operations, National Government’s (NG) net foreign currency deposits, and BSP’s income from its investments abroad during the month. These were partially offset, however, by the payments made by the NG for its foreign exchange obligations during the month in review.
Notwithstanding the surplus posted in December, the full-year 2018 BOP position registered a higher deficit of US$2.31 billion compared to the US$863 million BOP deficit recorded in 2017. The higher cumulative BOP deficit for the period may be attributed partly to the widening merchandise trade deficit (based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s preliminary data) for the first eleven months of the year that was brought about by the sustained rise in imports of raw materials and intermediate goods as well as capital goods to support domestic economic expansion.
The reported BOP position reflected the final gross international reserves (GIR) level of US$79.19 billion as of end-December 2018. At this level, the GIR represents a more than ample liquidity buffer and is equivalent to 7 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and primary income. It is also equivalent to 6 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 4.1 times based on residual maturity.1,2
1 Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.
2 The preliminary data on GIR as of end-December 2018 was released to the public on 7 January 2019. Preliminary data are released every 7th of the month in the Statistics section of the BSP’s website in compliance with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS). If the 7th day of the month falls on a weekend or is a non-working holiday, the release date shall be the working day before the 7th. Meanwhile, the BOP position and final GIR data are published in the BSP’s website every 19th day of the month. If the 19th day of the month falls on a weekend or is a non-working holiday, the release date shall be the working day nearest to the 19th.