GOVERNMENT BORROWINGS rose in the five months to May from a year earlier amid a rising budget deficit, according to Treasury bureau data.

Gross borrowings rose by 17% to P1.766 trillion, but the Department of Finance (DoF) said the country’s debt ratios remained manageable.

For May, the government borrowed P112.189 billion, 61% lower than a year earlier and 59% less than in April.

The government borrows from both local and foreign lenders to finance its budget gap that is expected to widen to 9.3% of economic output this year. The deficit hit P566.2 billion in May.

About 93.1% of the debt in May came from local sources. The rest came from overseas.

Domestic borrowings hit P104.4 billion that month, 38.77% lower than a year earlier and less than P106.15 billion in April.

These were made up of P95 billion in Treasury bonds and P9.4 billion in Treasury bills that the Treasury bureau had auctioned off weekly.

Minus the P793-million debt repayments made, net borrowings stood at P103.61 billion in May, down by 39% year on year.

Meanwhile, new foreign debt fell by 93.5% to P7.79 billion in May from a year earlier, and 95% lower month on month.

“The recent build-up in external debt was driven by the government’s resource mobilization against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Finance department said in an economic bulletin e-mailed on Sunday.

The agency said the Philippines’ external debt-to-gross domestic product ratio was the lowest among the five original members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last year, after Thailand (37.9%), Vietnam (38.5%), Indonesia (39.4%), and Malaysia (67.7%).

The Treasury bureau got P7.789 billion in new project loans that month and settled P8.074 billion of its debt. This resulted in a net redemption worth P285 million.

Year to date, the government’s new debt made up 59% of the P3-trillion programmed borrowings for the entire year. The P1.766-trillion borrowings consisted of 85% in local debts and the rest were from external sources.

Gross domestic borrowings rose by 31% to P1.513 trillion in the five months to May from a year earlier.

These were made up of P540 billion in short-term borrowings from the Philippine central bank, P462 billion in retail Treasury and so-called “Premyo bonds,” P389 billion in T-bonds and P120.31 billion in T-bills.

Gross external borrowings in those five months fell by 29% to P253.04 billion from a year earlier.

About P122 billion was raised through euro-denominated bonds issued in April and P24.19 billion in Samurai bonds sold in late March. The Treasury bureau also borrowed P72.12 billion in program loans and P34.76 billion in project loans.

Less all the repayments made by the government during the period, the government’s net borrowings increased by 16% to P1.56 trillion in those months from a year earlier.

The country’s outstanding external debt had reached $97.05 billion as of March, slightly lower than $98.49 billion at the end of 2020, according to a separate report from the central bank.

The DoF said this accounted for 26.7% of economic output or less than half of the country’s 57.3% debt ratio in 2005, the benchmark year of the International Monetary Fund for its balance of payments manual.

The government started increasing its borrowings last year as many parts of the country were locked down amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The sluggish economy forced the state to borrow more to fund relief programs for hard-hit sectors and make up for the plunging tax collections. — Beatrice M. Laforga