THE country’s outstanding external debt reached $80.431 billion in the first quarter of 2019, up from figures posted three months and a year earlier, data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed.

In a statement, the central bank said the amount was $1.471 billion higher than the $78.960 billion recorded in the last quarter of 2018, largely due to net availments totaling $1.8 billion, “as the national government raised $1.5 billion from the issuance of global bonds to fund [its] general financing requirements and positive audit adjustments.”

It is also $7.235 billion higher than $73.196 billion in the first three months of last year.

The increase was partially offset by the increase in residents’ investments in Philippine debt papers, including government bonds issued offshore.

External debt refers to all types of borrowings by Philippine residents from non-residents, following the residency criterion for international statistics.

The debt stock rose by 9.8 percent year-on-year, due largely to $9.2-billion net availments and $960 million in prior periods’ adjustments.

A $2.3-billion transfer of Philippine debt papers from non-residents to residents, as well as $740-million negative foreign-exchange revaluation adjustments, partially tempered that debt-stock increase during the year.

Debt ratios

As a percentage of annual aggregate output, external debt climbed to 20 percent from 19.1 percent a year earlier.

The country’s debt service ratio (DSR), meanwhile, improved to 5.1 percent from 8 percent a year ago, propting the Bangko Sentral to note that it “has consistently remained at single-digit levels.”

The DSR measures the country’s adequacy to meet its obligations, based on foreign-exchange earnings, by relating principal and interest payments to merchandise exports and receipts from services and primary income.

About 79.1 percent of the Philippines’ external debt is medium to long term in nature with maturities of over one year. This means that foreign-exchange requirements for debt payments are well spread out and, thus, more manageable, the Bangko Sentral explained.

Of the country’s end-March external debt, the public sector owed 50.3 percent or $40.2 billion.