THE MONETARY BOARD approved foreign borrowings worth $4.66 billion in the third quarter for reform programs and assistance to sectors affected by the pandemic, among others.

The amount is higher by 18.9% compared with the $3.92 billion worth of foreign financing the Monetary Board okayed in the third quarter last year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement on Tuesday.

It was also bigger by 66% than the $2.8 billion approved in the previous quarter.

Broken down, the BSP okayed a $3-billion bond issuance, three project loans amounting to $855.94 million, and two program loans worth $800 million.

The bulk or $3 billion of these borrowings were meant for the government’s general financing requirements.

Meanwhile, the rest of the amount will finance reform programs for youth employment and the financial sector ($800 million), disaster resilience ($300 million), assistance to the agriculture sector ($280 million), and emergency response ($275.94 million).

The 1987 Constitution requires the Monetary Board to approve any foreign loan agreement entered into by the National Government.

Latest data from the central bank showed the country’s outstanding external debt stood at $101.2 billion as of end-June, which was the highest since at least the end of 2011, based on available BSP data. This was amid higher pandemic expenses and a weaker peso.

This is equivalent to 26.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, easing from the 26.6% ratio as of end-March. — L.W.T. Noble