THE GOVERNMENT’S gross borrowings nearly tripled to P710.4 billion in January, after a fresh P540-billion loan from the central bank was credited, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) reported.

BTr data showed total borrowings jumped by 185% from P248.8 billion in the same month last year, largely due to a surge in local debt.

Gross domestic borrowings went up by 411% to P680.76 billion in January from P133.18 billion a year ago. This was attributed to the P540-billion cash advance from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) approved late last year which was credited to the Treasury in January.

The total also included P90 billion in Treasury bonds (T-bonds) and P61.67 billion in Treasury bills (T-bills).

The BSP on Dec. 28, 2020 approved the third round of cash advances to the BTr to boost the government’s war chest against the pandemic, after the previous loans of P540 billion in October and P300 billion in March had already been paid off. The latest cash advance is payable within three months and can be extended for another three months.

Existing laws allow the central bank to lend up to P850 billion to the government.

Meanwhile, total foreign gross borrowings in January reached P29.56 billion, down 74% from P115.62 billion recorded a year ago. This comprised P19 billion in program loans and P10.48 billion in project loans.

Meanwhile, the government’s debt service bill hit P219.79 billion that month, up 50% from the P146.05 billion a year ago. Around 79% were amortization payments and the rest went to interest payments

Repayments to principal debt doubled to P172.77 billion in January from P84.64 billion a year ago.

The government repaid P122.89 billion of its maturing foreign debt that month, up 210% from P39.64 billion.

It also settled P49.89 billion of its domestic debt that month, which was 10.87% higher than P45 billion repaid the year before.

Interest payments totaled P47.02 billion, down by 23% from P61.42 billion year on year.

Interest paid for domestic and external debt reached P29.38 billion and P17.65 billion, respectively.

Excluding the principal payments made, the government’s net borrowings hit P587.44 billion in January, climbing 170% from P217.12 billion last year.

The government is looking to raise P3 trillion this year from domestic and external lenders to help fund its budget deficit seen to hit 8.9% of gross domestic product. — Beatrice M. Laforga