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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines early January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan


By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) - The political party of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has backed Antonio Moncupa, the president of mid-sized lender East West Bank and head of the party's policy think tank, to become the next governor of the country's central bank.

Support for Moncupa was announced by Senator Aquilino Pimentel, president of the ruling PDP-Laban party, in a statement issued on the Senate website on Sunday.

The current governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Amando is due to step down in July having completed a maximum two terms. Tetangco is a career central banker widely praised for his stewardship of one of the world's fastest growing economies.

It was not immediately clear whether the PDP-Laban party's choice of Moncupa also had the blessing of Duterte. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has said potential candidates for the next central bank governor will undergo a selection process.

Moncupa, who holds a double degree in economics and accounting from De La Salle University in Manila and a masters in business administration from the University of Chicago, has served as president of East West Bank since 2007.

"I am humbled and greatly honoured by the endorsement. I believe he (Pimentel) sees a responsive and independent BSP as consistent with PDP-Laban's advocacies towards inclusive growth and the fight against criminality," Moncupa said in a text message to Reuters.

The choice of central bank governor will be among the key economic appointments Duterte will make during his six-year term.

The BSP has been one of the cornerstones of economic stability in the country, helping to deliver strong growth while keeping inflation in check.

Speculation has been rife on who will succeed Tetangco, with several other names floating around, including BSP deputy governors Diwa Guinigundo and Nestor Espenilla, former trade secretary and monetary board member Peter Favila, and Foreign Affairs Minister Perfecto Yasay.

Tetangco, in an interview with Reuters last month, said the best candidate to succeed him should be someone with a central banking background.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Kim Coghill)

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