The legacy of Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr.

March 10, 2019

DURING necrological services held in his honor last February 28, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) colleagues took turns extolling  Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr.

Espenilla passed away  at the age of 60 after battling  tongue cancer  for almost two years.

Espenilla left behind his dear wife, Tess, and children Jacqui, Nikko and Nesty.

All the speakers  from the rank and file, the officers, subordinates who worked directly under him, the deputy governors, the members of the monetary board and his immediate predecessor  had good memories of the fourth BSP governor.

“He was never too busy to talk to the employees. He listened to  their concerns. May malasakit.”

“He was very supportive of our club projects.”

“An enabler.”

“Relentless in his advocacy...”

“He had a good head.. and a good heart.”

“He inspired so many.”

“He had a good sense of humor.”

“He displayed utmost dedication, courage and determination.”

“He had a never-say-never attitude.”

“A good teacher.”

“He made a big difference.”

Former BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., who immediately preceded Espenilla, summed up what could be considered the latter’s legacy.

Espenilla and Tetangco  “practically grew up together in the BSP…  shared the same bosses…  were exposed to the same crises (since the 1980’s)… both had stints in the IMF… were steeped in the DER (Department of Economic Research) tradition of analytical rigor and well considered policy formulation.”

Sometime in 1999, their paths separated when Espenilla joined SES (Supervision and Examination Sector) while Tetangco moved on to Treasury and Banking Services.

“Indeed, our basic DNAs are the same.”

Tetangco credits Espenilla with doing the spadework to make the financial system more inclusive by leveraging on technology. The innovative regulatory framework proposed by Espenilla has allowed mobile phone financial services to be offered by banks and even non-banks.

At the inception of the program, Espenilla went as far as visiting remote islands in the south to see how BSP’s regulations on electronic money has enabled  merchants to act as e-money cash in/out points.

Up to the very last, Tetangco said Espenilla was “working towards the goal set of 20 per cent of all financial transactions  being electronic by 2020.”  

Tetangco described Espenilla as “a firm believer in markets and market-based solution and that the latter was working to make BSP’s own monetary operations more market-oriented.”

“Nesting stuck to his job until completion.”

Tetangco recalled that year-in and year out, Espenilla would defend BSP policies  on price discovery and organized markets, bank deposit secrecy, amendments to the BSP Charter in both houses of Congress.

Espenilla’s efforts finally paid off when President Duterte recently signed into law  the amendments which would further empower BSP in the performance of its mandate relative to money, banking and credit.

At the start of Espenilla’s term, Tetangco recalled Espenilla as saying that he was inheriting  Tetangco’s shoes that were too big to fill.

But Espenilla, Tetangco said in jest,  proved to be his own man who decided to run with his own shoes!

Tetangco spoke of Espenilla’s illness which now explains why Espenilla always seemed to be a man in a hurry.

“He battled an illness that very few in the medical profession understood well at this time. Even in his illness, he had to help pave the way for all others who would have his kind of cancer.

“His illness was a long trial for him. But he persevered. (H)e stood the test. He stuck to his reform agenda… both inside and outside the BSP… to the very end. Indeed, he served BSP and country exceedingly well.”

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