THE torrential rain last Friday certainly didn’t keep the leaders in the banking and financial sectors from attending the reception to get to know the new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Dr. Eli M. Remolona Jr. and celebrate the monetary institution’s 30th anniversary.
A proud product of the country’s public school system, having studied at the much-respected V. Mapa High, the seventh BSP chief and chair of the policymaking Monetary Board was perceivably still trying to get used to the idea of strangers coming up to him to introduce themselves, making small talk, and, well, take selfies.
Walking or driving around the metro with security aides in tow is also something Remolona is still trying to get used to, we are told, but he knows it can’t be helped. After all, he is the country’s top economic manager—a VVIP by Manila’s standards!—whose signature will soon be appearing on our paper currency along with that of the President.
The newly minted governor has been described as quiet and thoughtful. He is not one to chit-chat idly about the weather, and is more comfortable discussing monetary policy. (He has described himself a “central banking nerd.”) He will speak briefly, but with purpose. For instance, Remolona recently drew the BSP as “structurally hawkish,” the first time, we believe, a sitting central bank chief has done so.
When he’s not thinking about monetary policy, Remolona, we are told, appreciates good food and savors his favorite wines at some of the trendiest local restaurants with his wife, the former Marie Velasco. Mrs. Remolona, unfortunately, was not at Friday’s reception. (One friend has said she eschews dressing up to the nines to attend functions and formal affairs, and prefers whipping up new dishes in the kitchen.)
This is the second time Remolona is serving a Marcos, by the way. He graduated in 1972 with an economics degree from the Ateneo de Manila University, and then worked at the Presidential Economic Staff of then President Marcos Sr. He went on to receive a PhD in Economics “with Distinction” from Stanford University in 1982. Remolona has spent most of his career in central banking, 14 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and 19 years at the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland and Hong Kong. He has also had teaching stints at Williams College, Columbia University, New York University, and the UP-School of Economics.
In his brief remarks last Friday, Remolona thanked his predecessor Felipe Medalla for the latter’s courageous efforts in steering the economy and stabilizing prices.
“Today, we’re beginning to see tantalizing fruits of our efforts. Headline inflation seems to have peaked and looks to be on its way to our target range of two to four percent,” said the new governor. But he recognizes the BSP still needs to soldier on to combat inflation. “There are still upside risks to inflation—for example, risks in the form of El Niño and further supply shocks,” he stresses.
Remolona also looks forward to having more Filipinos be included in the financial system through digitalization. The BSP targets by the end of the year, 70 percent of adult Filipinos will have a bank account, up from 56 percent in 2021, already a substantial increase from just 23 percent in 2017. “These accounts should provide the opportunity for people to build savings buffers, invest in their future and more actively participate in the digital economy. Programs like Paleng-QR help digitalize crucial value chains of merchants and SMEs,” he says.
After the governor’s remarks, the guests at the BSP Assembly Hall returned to feasting on the fabulous spread prepared by Chef Florabel Co-Yatco—her chicken inasal tortilla and Angus Roast Beef with caldereta sauce were particular hits.
Needless to say, key officials of the BSP, along with MB members, were present at the affair; a few seen schmoozing with our banking reporter-friends to keep them happy, we suppose, as the latter were told not to ambush the governor with questions. (Well, they did get a ‘groufie’ with the governor. Hmmm…)
Two tycoon families with major banks were ably represented with Hans Sy (SM Prime Holdings) and Montxu Aboitiz (Aboitiz Group) in attendance. Former BSP governors Say Tetangco (chairman of SM Investments Corp.), Joey Cuisia (Phinma director), and Ben Diokno (now Finance Secretary) were also around. Returning Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsi Balisacan was likewise in the mix, along with representatives of government financial institutions, commercial banks, foreign banks, and a few rural banks.
Our congratulations to Gov. Remolona, and here’s wishing him six years of success at the BSP’s helm.
Image credits: BSP