MANILA, April 22, 2004
By Des Ferriols - Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Rafael Buenaventura is going on a three-week medical leave in the US, leaving the BSP in the hands of Deputy Governor Alberto V. Reyes Jr. as acting governor.

Buenaventura left late Tuesday night to attend the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, but told reporters that he would not return until shortly before the May elections.

Buenaventura said he would undergo medical check-up in the US after the IMF meeting as part of the continuing treatment and monitoring of an old and unspecified thyroid problem.

"Iíll be back maybe before the elections, depending on the results of the tests," Buenaventura intimated. "Wish me luck."

Buenaventura is the most-watched member of the governmentís economic team and has been primarily responsible for reining in the BSPís monetary policies to keep interest rates and foreign exchange rates under control and in line with the BSPís inflation targets.

According to Buenaventura, Reyes would take over as acting governor during his absence, assisted by deputy governors Amando Tetangco Jr. and Armando Suratos.

Reyes is currently the head of the BSPís bank supervision department that monitors bank compliance with the BSPís banking rules and regulations.

Buenaventura also went on medical leave for at least a month last year during which he was ordered suspended by the Court of Appeals in the case involving the closure of the defunct Urban Bank of the Philippines (UBP).

The suspension order is still pending resolution by the Supreme Court.

Buenaventura will be accompanied by wife Marivic Rufino.

Buenaventura has departed just as the peso has started recovering from its record-breaking slump that sent the currency to historical lows.

Buenaventura, however, said the currency should remain stable even in his absence since the political turmoil appears to have abated close to the May elections.

Before Buenaventuraís departure, market analysts had commented that his absence could be used as an excuse to drive the peso down all over again. "When the cat is away, the mouse will play," analysts said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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