BIZ BUZZ: Diokno comes out swinging

A new drama has unfolded amid the “ghost employees” scandal haunting the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

On Monday, Monetary Board (MB) member Benjamin Diokno said he “strongly objects” to the “allegation” that the BSP was “politicized” during his term as central bank governor from 2019 to 2022.

He issued a strongly worded statement related to the scandal hounding his two fellow MB members—Bruce Tolentino and Anita Linda Aquino, whose offices allegedly hired ghost employees who may have been on the BSP’s payroll for over a year.



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Diokno took over the BSP as governor in 2019 when he was appointed by former President Rodrigo Duterte, who also picked Tolentino and Aquino as members of the MB, the highest policy-making body of the BSP.

“I’m proud of what I did as BSP governor,” Diokno said, adding that Duterte “has respected the independence of the BSP during the most difficult period in the Philippines’ recent history.”

“President Duterte never called me to influence monetary policy. It was never politicized,” an incensed Diokno said.

Sources said the BSP wants to recover a “significant” amount of salaries and bonuses paid to the ghost employees, as well as give the MB members tied to the controversy an “orderly exit.”

That said, the scandal could potentially trigger a major revamp of the MB at a time the BSP is battling stubbornly high inflation and tackling a volatile peso.

And markets are watching how the BSP would come out of this crisis that has brought reputational risks to an institution revered for professionalism. —Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral


RSA: Hold on to West PH Sea

During the Philippine Economic Briefing in Pasay on Monday, tycoon Ramon S. Ang made his stance clear on the country’s territorial dispute against China in front of top government officials.

The chief of San Miguel Corp.—an industry giant with diverse business interests including Petron Corp.—told the country’s economic managers the contested West Philippine Sea would benefit the country in terms of oil production.

“We have a very big reserve at the West Philippine Sea. That’s why they’re very interested in the Philippines,” said Ang, who was standing tall and poised in the middle of the Philippine International Convention Center’s reception hall as he delivered his short speech.

“Let’s not let go of it. We should claim our territory,” he stressed. A round of applause filled the room after.

The Department of Energy estimated in 2021 that the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone has 6.2 billion barrels of oil reserves. — Tyrone Jasper C. Piad

30% public float for DBP?

The government is eyeing bigger private sector participation in the capital buildup of Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), as the state-run lender moves to beef up its buffers following its hefty contribution to the country’s nascent sovereign wealth fund.

The Department of Finance’s (DoF) version of a bill seeking to amend DBP’s 26-year-old charter included a proposal to allow the lender to float 30 percent of its capital stock for public ownership, instead of the 20-percent minimum requirement that corporate regulators currently impose to publicly listed firms.

Such a proposal came from the DoF, not from DBP, according to Michael de Jesus, company president and CEO. The bank official said such an amendment would give DBP “more flexibility” in raising capital and “encourage” investments from the private sector.

De Jesus said that, at the end of the day, the government would still own more than 67 percent of DBP. ”It’s still a super majority,” he said.

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At the heart of the charter amendment is the increase in DBP’s authorized capital stock to P300 billion, from the current P35 billion. The proposed capital hike, in turn, would pave the way for the bank’s stock market debut. — Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral



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