The Philippine central bank kept its benchmark rate unchanged at 6.50% for a fourth straight meeting on Monday, as expected, even as inflation further quickened in March.

All 21 economists in a Reuters poll had expected the BSP to keep its target reverse repurchase rate unchanged.

Annual inflation accelerated for a second straight month in March to 3.7% on higher food and transport costs. Rice inflation jumped to its fastest pace in 15 years, accounting for nearly half of the price uptick for the month.

The central bank has raised rates by 450 basis points since May 2022, including in an off-cycle hike in October.

"Risks to inflation outlook continues to lean towards the upside," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Eli Remolona told a press briefing. (Reporting by Mikhail Flores and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)