Jun 132013

MANILA, Philippines – Moody’s Investors Service is due to evaluate the Philippines next quarter, but an upgrade to investment grade status is not hinged on that, officials said yesterday.

“The schedule is still being fixed but most likely, it would take place in the third quarter,” Claro Fernandez, central bank investor relations chief, said in a phone interview.

The New York-based debt watcher has refrained from raising the country’s credit rating to investment grade despite similar actions from rivals, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Ratings Services this year.

Moody’s currently places the Philippines at Ba1, with a “stable” outlook, which indicates no possible rating movements in the near future since the last action was in October of last year.

Fitch and S&P, meanwhile, rank the country at BBB-, the lowest investment grade, months after they had their diligence visits to the Philippines.  Fitch made its visit in March and S&P in April.

Christian de Guzman, vice-president for Sovereign Ratings Group at Moody’s, said in an e-mail that yearly visits are “surveillance activities and are not a pre-requisite for a rating change.”

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Fernandez agreed, saying the government is consistently in touch with the rating agencies, sending them reports on Philippine economic developments.

“We have been in constant communication with them. We send them reports so that even if they do not come here, they know what is happening,” Fernandez pointed out.

“An upgrade is not dependent on the visit. It can come even before that,” he added.

The Aquino administration has vowed to reach investment grade status this year in a bid to lower debt interest payments, free up more credit avenues and lure more foreign direct investments to boost jobs.   

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