THE PESO weakened sharply past the P51-to-the-dollar level following a rush to safe-haven currencies due to the prospect of fresh Middle Eastern tensions after a US air strike killed a senior Iranian military officer while he was in Iraq.

The peso closed at P51.09 Friday, much weaker than its P50.685 close on Thursday, according to data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

Week-on-week, the peso weakened by 45.5 centavos against its P50.635 close on Dec. 27.

The peso opened the session at P50.65, which was also the high.

Dollar volume rose to $1.598 billion from $944.55 million previously.

A trader and a bank analystr said that the peso’s plunge Friday came on the back of fears of further Middle Eastern tensions.

“The peso weakened significantly due to safe-haven demand on reports that the United States was primarily responsible for the death of an Iranian military official,” the trader said in an email.

“This trend and significant decline points to the unfolding geopolitical risk. The market moved towards safe havens as much is still being digested in this new year,” Union Bank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said in a text message.

Reuters reported that Iranian major-general Qassem Soleimani died on Friday following a US airs trike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.

The Pentagon said the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian activity in Iraq.

Mr. Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has helped Iran fight proxy wars across the Middle East. He died alongside Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. — Luz Wendy T. Noble