Bunye: Looking back (1)

ON JULY 3, 2008, I assumed my post as a member of the Monetary Board (MB) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. It was an auspicious moment as it coincided with the 15th anniversary of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. On the same day, two outstanding members of the Monetary Board, Dr. Vince Valdepeñas and Atty. Raul Boncan, completed their respective terms.

Immediately prior to my appointment at the MB, I served for six years at the Cabinet of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At various periods during my Malacañang stint, I served as press secretary, presidential spokesperson, acting executive secretary, and presidential political adviser.

Before that, I served in Congress as representative of the lone district of Muntinlupa City. Before Congress, I had the privilege to serve as mayor of Muntinlupa from 1986 to 1998, during which period Muntinlupa metamorphosed from a fifth-class municipality to a highly urbanized city. At one point, I also served, in a concurrent capacity, as chairman of Metro Manila Authority, the forerunner of the present-day Metro Manila Development Authority.

Prior to my joining the public service, I was an investment banker and a commercial banker. While taking up law at the Ateneo, I worked as a radio and, later, as a newspaper reporter.

My BSP stint, although relatively quieter than my previous responsibilities, was nonetheless just as fulfilling. In its own way, it was also very exciting.

In 2007, a year before I joined the MB, the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States unfolded.

In 2008, inflation in the Philippines, fueled by oil price spike was at a high single digit. Barely two months later, on September 2008, the Lehman bankruptcy, the largest in US history, became the principal trigger of the global financial crisis. The subsequent Eurozone crisis starting 2009 provided the additional after-shocks.

The Monetary Board, under the leadership of then Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., had to dig deep into its tool kit to bring down inflation to manageable levels. It also helped keep financial institutions stable and resilient in the face of the adverse external environment.

At the same time, the Bangko Sentral relentlessly pushed its advocacy of financial inclusion.

I am indeed proud to have been a part of Team BSP which made all of the above possible.

As a member of the Monetary Board, I also served as a member of the Board Risk Oversight Committee, which formulated policies on monitoring, assessing and responding to various risks to which BSP is exposed.

I was advisor to the Currency Management Committee, which ensures that we always have an ample supply of clean notes and coins needed by our growing economy.

I likewise served as advisor to the Numismatic Committee. The NUMISCOM prepared the spade work for the design, approval and circulation of the New Generation Currency.

As my own personal contribution to BSPs advocacy of financial inclusion -- through financial literacy and education -- I wrote "Central Banking for Every Juan and Maria." In that book, I explained to the laymen how actions and policies of the Bangko Sentral can and do affect their everyday lives.

"To me, the author succeeds in presenting the truth about the BSP, that it is accessible, customer-friendly and responsive to the concerns of the man on the streets or every Juan and Maria," Governor Tetangco wrote.

"Very colorful, informative and readable.... This is really central banking at grassroots. Every educated Filipino should read your book," said former Monetary Board member Vince Valdepeñas.

The public reception to the book came to me as a pleasant surprise. Its first print sold out just two months after its launch.

I also had the chance to actively support the advocacy of young BSP mothers, like Claire Mogol and Jennifer Joy Ong, who initiated a BSP-wide campaign to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding. Their efforts led to the establishment of lactation rooms cum "milk banks" at the BSP.

During my stint at the Monetary Board, some of the important policies and guidelines were promulgated, as follows:

1. Guidelines on the regulation of derivatives

2. Guidelines governing the issuance of electronic money

3. Guidelines regarding the Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process (ICAAP)

4. Definition of Trust Corporations, and

5. Guidelines strengthening Corporate Governance among BSP-supervised financial institutions.

(To be concluded next week)

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