SO far, none of the presidential aspirants for the May 2022 national elections has issued a statement about the mounting foreign debt of the Philippines.

Recent reports said Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao vowed to end extrajudicial killings if he wins the race to Malacañang less than five months from now. He said he stands by the 1987 Constitution, which says that “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso said he “would fight for the country’s claim over Sabah,” which was once part of the sultanate of Sulu but now part of Malaysia.

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said during her visit to Cebu City on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, that one of the things she will do once she is chosen as the Chief Executive is to promote a decentralized government in order for the country to promote and achieve equal growth.

Last week, during his visit to southern Cebu with vice presidential candidate Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said he would empower the country’s 42,046 barangays if he wins the presidency by pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 23 or the Budget Advocacy for Village Empowerment, which will give local governments and barangays the chance to implement their own projects.

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Sr., vowed to modernize existing seaports, airports and railways so the country would become the next logistics hub in Asia, which could hasten the country’s economic recovery in the post-pandemic world.

For his part, socialist labor leader Leody de Guzman said he will push to “change the whole system of government.” He also wants to put mass murderers in jail, tax the billionaires more, institute a nationwide P750 minimum wage, end contractualization, among others.

Those were some of the presidential aspirants’ promises.

Now, how about the Philippines’ foreign obligations?

The country’s international debt rose by 4.7 percent to $105.93 billion (5.3 trillion in Philippine peso) at the end of September from $101.2 billion (P5.1 trillion) at the end of June. The end-of-September external debt represents 27.3 percent of the domestic economy.

The increase in external debt came as the Philippines received emergency funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the national government’s higher borrowings for its measures in mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno said in a statement that the country’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio “remains one of the lowest as compared to other Asean countries.”

The debt servicing (repayment of principal and interest) was pegged at $7.3 billion from January to September this year, representing 2.6 percent of GDP.

Paying one’s debt is a burden when one is struck with an unexpected emergency situation.

The pandemic hit the world like a thief, crippling economies. The ongoing pandemic is an emergency situation. Developing countries have had a hard time in dealing with the pandemic, and they have to borrow from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, IMF and wealthy countries to finance their vaccination campaigns and other measures to ease the pandemic’s burden on their citizens.

Whoever is the successor of President Rodrigo Duterte, facing the Philippines’ foreign debt is a daunting task. Presidential aspirants must tell Filipinos their plans on what to do with the country’s international obligations. Will the winner do an accounting on the borrowings done during the Duterte administration?

Economic experts said foreign debt could cause problems to a borrowing country, especially a low-income developing country—slowing the growth of the economy because much of the country’s budget would go to debt servicing; causing trouble in the financial market; creating a debt crisis when the government could not repay its foreign obligations, among others.