Banks told to ensure cash in ATMs
Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has not recorded an increase in financial consumer complaints particularly in the delivery of basic services amid the month-long enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

“We haven’t seen a spike in complaints, but we are closely monitoring all those referring to availability of basic services and addressing those promptly,” BSP managing director Pia Bernadette Roman-Tayag.

Tayag, who also heads the central bank’s Center for Learning and Inclusion Advocacy (CLIA), said the BSP wants to make sure Filipinos are able to access financial services through available cash in bank branches and ATMs as well as open remittance agents.

Tayag said the CLIA - Consumer Empowerment Group would continue to accept formal complaints that remain unresolved through to make sure that BSP-supervised financial institutions are responsive to the needs of clients.

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno has urged the public to go cashless and do their transactions via digital channels to avoid crowds amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

Diokno is confident the share of electronic payments to total transactions could hit 50 percent in terms of value and volume by the end of 2023.

The BSP launched the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) in 2015 promoting interoperability, allowing digital financial transactions via the PESONet (Philippine EFT System and Operations Network) and InstaPay to raise the share of payments over electronic platforms to 20 percent by 2020.

A study conducted by the United Nations-led Better Than Cash Alliance (BCTA) showed the share of e-payments increased to 10 percent in 2018 from only one percent in terms of volume and to 20 percent from eight percent in terms of value.

Aside from extending payment holidays of between 30 and 90 days, banks have also waived the fee charged for digital transactions during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine.

For his part, Bankers Association of the Philippine president Cezar Consing said the banking industry must continue to operate even under the most difficult of circumstances to make sure that the economy continues to function.

 “Stand by your posts. There are businesses and consumers to finance, payrolls to be met, bills to be paid,” he said.

Consing, who is also president and chief executive officer of Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), said skeleton forces in head office units should make sure to staff designated branches to remain open.

“If our head office units are insufficiently staffed, our branches and ATMs will cease to function. Not everything can be done digitally, at least not right now,” Consing said.

Consing said the banking sector want to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis with strength and stability unquestioned.

“This crisis will test the quality of our loans, the marks of our securities, the sufficiency of our capital, and the resiliency of our operations and our people. The industry was strong going into this crisis,” Consing said.

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