Queen Maxima to visit Philippines, to push financial inclusion

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Queen Maxima to visit Philippines, to push financial inclusion
Queen Maxima

MANILA, Philippines — Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is scheduled to visit Manila next week in her capacity as United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA).

She is expected to stay from May 21 to 23 and meet with President Marcos and top finance officials.

The visit will focus on advancing key foundational building blocks for financial inclusion – including connectivity, digital identification and digital payments – as well as enhancing financial health and resilience against economic and climate-related challenges for Filipinos.

In recent years, the Philippines has seen considerable progress in financial access, with the proportion of adults owning a bank account rising from 26.6 percent in 2011 to 51.4 percent in 2021, as reported by the World Bank Global Findex.

However, despite these gains, data also show that the Philippines still has approximately 37.6 million unbanked adults, with the Findex data also highlighting significant concerns about financial resilience among Filipinos.

The primary financial worry for 42 percent of adults is covering medical costs in the event of a serious illness or accident, followed by concerns over managing monthly expenses (24 percent) and securing funds for old age (17 percent).

The urgency for improved financial health has been underscored by the pandemic, with 68 percent of adults very worried about facing severe financial hardship.

Throughout the visit, Queen Máxima will recognize recent developments in digital ID implementation and digital payments systems while engaging with public and private sector leaders to discuss support for their expansion.

Digital ID can help people access safe and secure financial services such as digital payments. The visit will also highlight the need for more affordable financial services, crucial for the archipelago’s many small islands.

During the trip, the UNSGSA will conduct field visits in Manila and its surrounding areas to hear firsthand from financial services users about innovations that significantly impact their lives, especially those enhancing financial health.

Queen Máxima will also visit a fisherfolk community to explore last-mile financial solutions that address the unique challenges present in remote island settings.

The Special Advocate will also learn about a tech-enabled platform that empowers small sari-sari storeowners to grow their businesses, digitize their operations and integrate into large supply chains.

Apart from President Marcos, Queen Maxima will have high-level meetings with Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Eli Remolona Jr. and other key policymakers and leaders for discussions aimed at fostering partnerships and support continuous innovations in the financial sector.

Queen Máxima will also meet with Asian Development Bank president Masatsugu Asakawa to explore collaborative opportunities at a regional level.

Additionally, a focus group discussion with a diverse contingent of female financial users will provide insights into how financial products can effectively address the needs of women and enhance their financial health.

Another highlight of the visit will be a demonstration of the Co-Develop’s South-East Asia Center for Digital Public Infrastructure at Ateneo de Manila University.

By sharing insights and forging connections between global financial initiatives and local realities, the UNSGSA visit aims to inspire continued progress and innovation in the Philippines’ financial sector.

Queen Maxima, also in her capacity as the UNSGSA, previously visited the Philippines from June 29 to July 1 in 2015.

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