VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte exaggerates Philippines’ creditworthiness

President Rodrigo Duterte falsely claimed the Philippines is close to equalling the credit rating of world economic leaders United States and Japan.

STATEMENT

Speaking in front of the Filipino Community in Japan May 30, Duterte boasted about the Philippines' upgrade of its credit rating to BBB+:

"We are now in the category of BBB+. Ibig sabihin (it means), we are just one step ahead, magtabla na tayo sa Amerika pati sa Japan [na may] AAA [ratings] (we will soon be equal to America and Japan [with] AAA [ratings]). BBB+ na tayo eh (We’re now at BBB+)."

Source: RTVMalacanang, Meeting with the Filipino Community (Speech) 5/30/2019, May 30, 2019, watch from 10:58 to 11:21

In the official video coverage of Duterte’s speech, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was seen applauding when Duterte said the country will soon join the U.S. and Japan in the triple A territory.

FACT

No, the Philippines is not “one step ahead” or away from being on par with the U.S. and Japan.

Contrary to Duterte's claim, the Philippines still needs to jump several more notches to attain an AAA credit rating, based on the scales of the world's top three credit rating agencies.

Credit rating is an assessment of the creditworthiness of an "issue or issuer" and the "capacity and willingness" of a borrower to settle its obligations upon maturity, according to the local credit rating agency Philippine Rating Services Corporation (PhilRatings).

Fitch Ratings, Moody's and S&P Global Ratings rate different entities, such as corporations or sovereign governments, in the form of letter grades to identify creditworthiness.

Below are the three agencies' long-term credit rating scales, where the BBB+ rating Duterte mentioned can be found:


*Fitch and S&P Global Ratings include the plus (+) or minus (-) modifiers from “AA” to
“CCC” to show relative standing within the major rating categories.

**Moody's includes numerical figures 1,2 and 3 to each generic rating classification from Aa through CAA. The modifier 1 indicates the obligation ranks in the higher end of its generic rating category; the modifier 2 indicates a mid-range ranking; and the modifier 3 indicates a ranking in the lower end of the generic rating category.


AAA ratings for Fitch and S&P, and Aaa for Moody's are considered the highest ratings, indicating the lowest risk.

Duterte was also wrong in claiming that Japan and the US have AAA credit ratings.

It is only the US who has AAA credit ratings from both Fitch and S&P, as of April and March, respectively, and an Aaa from Moody's as of June 7. Japan has A from Fitch as of January and AA+ from S&P as of March, and an A1 from Moody's as of June 7.

Meanwhile, the Philippines has BBB from Fitch as of May, BBB+ from S&P as of March, and Baa2 from Moody's as of May.

The country’s previous credit ratings in 2018 are BBB from Fitch and S&P, and Baa2 from Moody’s.

Duterte got his data right when he was reading a prepared speech. In a business forum on May 29, he said BBB+ is "only a notch below the credit rating of A." This matches a statement from the Department of Finance that the country's current S&P credit rating is just a step away from the agencies' "A minus" credit rating category.


Sources

RTVMalacanang, Meeting with the Filipino Community (Speech) 5/30/2019, May 30, 2019

Investopedia, Credit Rating, May 8, 2019

Fitch Ratings, Ratings Definition

S&P Global Ratings, S&P Global Ratings Definitions

Moody’s, Moody’s Rating Scale and Definitions

Presidential Communications Operations Office official Facebook page, Business Forum Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan May 29, 2019, May 29, 2019

Department of Finance, S&P upgrades Philippine credit rating to “BBB+ stable,” a notch away from ‘A’ territory rating, April 30, 2019

Merriam-Webster, credit rating, n.d.

S&P Global Ratings, S&P Global Ratings Definitions, October 31, 2018

Fitch, Fitch Affirms Philippines at 'BBB'; Outlook Stable, May 30, 2019

Fitch, Fitch Affirms Japan at 'A'; Outlook Stable, January 22, 2019

Fitch, Fitch Affirms The United States at 'AAA'; Outlook Stable, April 2, 2019

S&P Global Ratings, Sovereign Ratings List

Moody’s, Government of Japan

Moody’s, Government of Philippines

Moody’s, Government of United States of America

Philippine Rating Services Corporation, FAQs About Credit Rating

Reuters, BRIEF-S&P Revises Philippines' Outlook To Positive; Ratings Affirmed, April 26, 2018

Business World, S&P upgrades Philippines’ credit outlook to ‘positive’, April 26, 2018

CNN Philippines, Standard & Poor's upgrades Philippines credit outlook to 'positive', July 20, 2018


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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