Philippine Central Bank Chief Takes Indefinite Medical Leave By Bloomberg

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© Bloomberg. Chuchi Fonacier Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — The Philippines central bank said Governor Nestor Espenilla, who was on two weeks of medical leave, has extended his time off indefinitely.

Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier was named officer-in-charge to take over his duties while he is away, the corporate affairs office of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said on Tuesday.

Espenilla, 60, was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2017 and has been taking intermittent time off from work for medical treatment and care. He took office as governor in July 2017, delivering five interest rate hikes last year to fight inflation.

Policy makers are scheduled to make their first interest rate decision of the year on Feb. 7. They left the benchmark rate unchanged at 4.75 percent in December, forecasting a sharp slowdown in inflation in 2019.

“I do not expect a change in policy direction from the BSP from Governor Espenilla’s leave of absence,” said Eugenia Victorino, head of Asia strategy at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB in Singapore. “Inflation is already off its peak and oil price gains are muted. We expect BSP to remain on the sidelines and remain vigilant to a resumption in volatility.”

The peso rose for the first time in six days, gaining 0.3 percent to 52.75 against the dollar at the noon trading break in Manila on Wednesday.

(Updates with economist’s comment.)

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