Banks say services remain available amid tighter curbs

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine banks said the industry is providing essential financial services despite the shift to Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila and nearby provinces due to surging COVID infections.

While operational adjustments shall also be implemented to maintain reliable and accessible services to the Filipino public, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) said member banks are continuously providing innovative platforms to keep services running for clients.

“We encourage clients to check their respective bank’s website, social media channels and announcements for further updates and information on operating hours and banking services. Online and mobile facilities are fully operational and available for clients’ convenience and protection,” the BAP said.

In light of the current situation, the organization said banks continue to enhance health protocols, including the temporary closure of certain branches and shortening operating hours for routine cleaning and disinfection, to protect both clients and employees from the virus.

“These enhancements are in addition to existing health protocols strictly implemented by our member banks in their branches, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing in all premises,” the BAP said.

Likewise, the Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB) also assured the public of continued banking services, even amid the Omicron surge.

“Most (if not all) of our member-banks’ branches/units and branch lite units are open to serve the public. While there are some bank branches that are closed in certain areas due to affected employees of the banks, the banks rotate their people to keep other branches open,” CTB said.

It pointed out customers could transact in any open branches nearby, plus, digital platforms - mobile banking, online onboarding and ATMs are available.

“The banks also established split teams in all their branches since the start of the pandemic to allow them to continue to operate when one team is exposed and must be quarantined,” CTB said.

The banks maximise the use of contact centers and use of digital channels such as Instapay, PESONet, QR code facility and payment providers as well as cash agents.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) earlier directed banks to ensure the availability of essential financial services in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces that were placed under Alert Level 3 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

Likewise, the regulator also directed BSP-supervised financial institutions (BSFIs) to strictly observe minimum health protocols to safeguard the safety and well-being of bank personnel and customers.

The BSP also encourages the public to use e-banking and digital payment services for safer and more efficient financial transactions.

Under its Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap, the BSP has committed to convert half of all total retail transactions to electronic channels by 2023.

With the global health crisis serving as catalyst to digitalization, the share of electronic payments to total retail transactions increased to about 30 percent in 2021 from 20.1 percent in 2020 and only one percent in 2013.

The BSP is committed to deliver on its mandates of promoting price and financial stability, and a safe and efficient payments and settlements system throughout the pandemic.


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