Business organizations and the banking community have raised some concerns about the impact to the public of having 8 continuous days where over-the-counter bank deposits and/or withdrawals could not be serviced.
Thus, on Tuesday the Monetary Board (MB), the policy-making arm of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), issued a new directive allowing banks the option to remain open during the holidays.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier declared December 26, 29 and 31 as special non-working holidays under Proclamation No. 1463, effectively blocking off the period from December 25 to January 1.
This prolonged period would place a significant operational strain on Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) specially during the traditionally-busy Christmas season.
The MB directive allows banks to keep select or all their retail branches open during the holidays only for over-the-counter servicing of deposit and withdrawal transactions.
Metrobank, the country's biggest bank in terms of revenues, said in a statement that it will open majority of its branches during the holiday break.
Of Metrobank's 551 branches nationwide, 295 strategically located branches will be open starting December 20 (Saturday), 24, 26, 27, 28 (Sunday), 29, 30, 31, and Jan. 1, 2009.
These branches are in Metro Manila, Luzon, Cebu, Tacloban, Iloilo, Davao, Zamboanga, Dipolog, Iligan. They will be open on different days at different times and some will be open only between 12 noon and 4 p.m.
Metrobank said its 803 total ATMs nationwide will have steady, convenient access to cash during the holidays, and its electronic banking channels such as Metrophone and Metrobankdirect (internet banking facility) will also be available.
BPI and BDO
Meantime, the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) said it will keep all its mall branches open on December 27 and 28 from 10am to 7pm.
BPI also said it will operate regular banking hours on December 29 from 8.30am to 4 pm.
On the other hand, Banco de Oro Unibank, the country's largest bank in terms of assets, said it is still finalizing its schedule for the holidays.