Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. died over the weekend after more than a year of struggling with tongue cancer. He was 60.
The Monetary Board, the policy-making body of Bangko Sentral, issued a statement Sunday morning confirming Espenilla’s death.
“It is with deep sadness that the Monetary Board announced that Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor and chairman of the Monetary Board Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. peacefully passed away on Feb. 23, 2019 surrounded by members of his family,” the board said.
Espenilla had been undergoing treatment for cancer for more than a year.
He was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, 2017, succeeding Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. He served as BSP governor for one year, seven months, and 20 days.
He concurrently served as ex-officio chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Philippine International Convention Center, and the Financial Stability Coordination Council.
Under his leadership, the BSP continued to pursue major reforms under the theme “Continuity Plus Plus” covering monetary and financial policies, as well as the BSP organizational structure.
He also spearheaded the digitalization of the country’s retail payment system in the country for a more inclusive and efficient financial system.
During his tenure, the amendments to the BSP charter were finally passed and it was signed into law by President Duterte last week, strengthening the capability of the central bank to deliver its mandate to promote price and financial stability and to foster a safe, efficient and inclusive payment system.
“In a special meeting held on the same day, the Monetary Board designated Deputy Governor Almasara Cyd Tuano-Amador as BSP officer-in-charge effective immediately until such time that President Rodrigo Duterte shall have designated an OIC or appointed a successor,” the Monetary Board said.
Before his appointment as governor, Espenilla was deputy governor in charge of the Supervision and Examination Sector, which supervises banks and non-bank financial institutions under BSP jurisdiction.
In that capacity, he focused on banking supervision, capital market development, credit policy, and financial inclusion. He institutionalized risk-based and proportionate regulations, enabling BSP-supervised institutions to innovate business models and adopt digital financial services.
He also championed the issuance of regulations that promote financial inclusion and consumer protection. He used to describe himself as “homegrown”—having joined the central bank in 1981.
Espenilla had a bachelor of science degree in business economics, graduating magna cum laude, an MBA from the University of the Philippines, and a master of science degree in policy science from the Graduate Institute of Policy Science in Tokyo, Japan.
He is survived by his wife Maria Teresita Festin Espenilla, daughter Jacqueline Joyce and son-in-law, Ben Baltazar, sons Nikko Nestor and Leonardo Nestor and grandchild, Zev Eron.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said it was a “very sad day” to see one of the hardworking co-workers in government go.
“Nesting is one of our illustrious graduates at the UP School of Economics. He joined BSP right after his graduation and rose to governorship of the monetary institution after years of effective and excellent service as a regulator and anchor of monetary policy,” Diokno said in a text message.
Diokno said Espenilla was an esteemed part of the Duterte economic team. “We will miss him. Godspeed, Nesting,” he said.
National Economic and Development Authority director general and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said he was deeply saddened by Espenilla’s passing.
“He was an exemplar of a dedicated public servant with high competence and integrity. A big loss to the BSP and the country. He’ll be missed,” Pernia said in a text message.
East West Bank chairman Antonio Moncupa Jr.—one of the choices for the successor to Tetangco, along with Espenilla and Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo—said “Nesting” served the country well.
Bankers Association of the Philippines president Nestor Tan, who is also the president and chief executive of BDO Unibank Inc., said Espenilla’s leadership resulted in progressive reforms that now support a stronger banking system, including the enactment of the new Central Bank Act.
“With the support and guidance of Governor Espenilla, the BAP built the Philippine Banking Roadmap. The association is grateful to Governor Espenilla for his initiative to engage the industry and respond to its inputs in keeping with the BSP reform agenda,” Tan said.
Tan said Espenilla left a legacy of a stronger and more inclusive banking system.
The Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines, a national organization of business reporters and editors, also mourned the passing of Espenilla, “who heeded the call of duty even when he was grappling with his own health issues.”
EJAP said Espenilla’s nearly four decades of service to the country were marked by dogged banking supervision while pioneering the use of digital means to achieve financial inclusion.
“Even as we mourn, we urge President Rodrigo Duterte to ease market uncertainties by promptly filling the void with someone just as suitable and committed to the BSP’s mandate of price and financial stability—one who can hit the ground running and ensure policy continuity,” EJAP said.
Voyager president and chief executive Orlando Vea said Espenilla’s legacy “lives on in every effort that we all do to serve the unbanked, uncarded and underserved Filipinos with digital financial services.”
Vea said it was a sad day for the country and the financial services industry, describing Espenilla as a humble public servant, progressive central banker, and relentless champion of financial inclusion.
Malacañang mourned Espenilla’s passing on Saturday.
“We are saddened to learn Saturday night the untimely demise of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr.,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
He also thanked Espenilla for his “complete devotion to his work and great service to the nation.”
Panelo recalled how Espenilla rose slowly but steadily up the ladder before his appointment as BSP deputy governor in 2005 and eventually, governor, in 2017.
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