51.2 million Pinoys remain unbanked – BSP

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — More than 51 million Filipino adults remain unbanked due to lack of enough money, lack of documentary requirements, and refusal to open a bank account, according to the 2019 financial inclusion survey report of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The central bank said majority of the 72 million Filipino adult population or 45 percent of the unbanked point to lack of money as the topmost reason for not having a bank account.

On the other hand, 27 percent of the respondents cited lack of need for a bank account and 26 percent pointed to lack of documentary requirements.

The survey showed that only 40 percent of adults aged 15 years old and above are aware of the basic deposit account, a low-cost, easy-to-open bank account introduced as a policy initiative of the BSP in 2018 designed to address the cited barriers.

Likewise, the perceived lack of need for an account may be linked to the lack of awareness that an account could be a tool for convenient digital payments as over 80 percent of the unbanked has various payment transactions.

“They receive benefits from the government and wages from employers and they pay government fees, loan amortizations, utilities and bills,” the BSP said.

Yet, the BSP said the survey showed that these transactions are predominantly made in cash.

For instance, more than half or 56 percent of recipients of government benefits received the funds via cash or check, while 60 percent of working adults do not have an account wherein they could receive their salary.

With the cooperation and support of government and private sector, the BSP said receiving benefits and wages could be a strong incentive for the unbanked to open and use a bank account.

On the other hand, the survey showed 60 percent of Filipino adults have a mobile phone, while 53 percent use the internet.

However, only 12 percent of mobile phone owners and nine percent of internet users use their mobile phones and the internet for financial transactions.

Moreover, seven in 10 unbanked Filipino adults have a mobile phone which further represents an untapped opportunity for digital finance.  Lack of awareness and trust are the main reasons for not making mobile or online financial transactions.

The 2019 financial inclusion survey showed a six-percentage point rise in account penetration as an additional five million Filipino adults opened a bank account between 2017 and 2019.

This pushed the share of Filipino adults who own an account to 29 percent in 2019 from 23 percent in 2017. Ownership of an account held in a formal institution including banks, electronic-money issuers, and microfinance institutions (MFIs) is a basic indicator of financial inclusion.

The growth was largely driven by e-money accounts which rose to eight percent in 2019 from only one percent in 2017, while MFI accounts increased to 12 percent from eight percent. Bank accounts barely moved from 11.5 percent in 2017.

The results highlight the importance of financial and digital literacy as well as adequate consumer protection in promoting uptake of digital financial services especially amid the novel coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has provided significant momentum to digital finance, as more Filipinos recognize and appreciate the benefits -and necessity- of transaction accounts and digital payments,” the BSP said citing online banking, electronic fund transfers InstaPay and PESONet.

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