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[MANILA] The Philippines named Nestor Espenilla as its next central bank governor on Monday, promoting a deputy to signal a smooth handover from a widely respected incumbent who for years kept the country in a sweet spot of strong growth and low inflation.
The much anticipated announcement comes ahead of a policy meeting on Thursday, and ends months of speculation about what could be the most important appointment of Rodrigo Duterte's presidency.
The 58-year-old Espenilla, the deputy governor in charge of banking supervision, will replace the much-praised career central banker Amando Tetangco, who steps down in July as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) chief after 12 years, having served a maximum two terms.
Overseen by Mr Tetangco, monetary policy and reforms kept the the Philippines' banks sound, the peso stable, inflation stable and sustained the country's strong economic growth.
Mr Tetangco thanked Mr Duterte for choosing Mr Espenilla as his successor, saying he was respected among central bankers and regulators at home and abroad.
"The choice of an insider in the person of deputy governor Espenilla ensures the continuity of policy and thought process in the BSP," Mr Tetangco said in a text message to media.
"I am confident that with him at the helm, the BSP will continue to be a pillar of support to the economy, that should remain among the top performing economies in the world." There has been considerable suspense over who Mr Duterte would choose for what was regarded as the most crucial economic appointment.
Mr Espenilla will take over as the Duterte administration prepares for a six-year, US$180 billion spending spree on infrastructure, in a bid to sustain galloping growth.
The stimulus would help offset the impact of possible protectionist US policies on remittances from overseas Filipinos, and on American investment in business process outsourcing (BPO) to the Philippines, a vital sector for the economy.