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