The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Thursday proposed tougher penalties for people who make counterfeit bills.
Under current laws, counterfeiting Philippine money is punishable by imprisonment of at least 12 years and one day and a maximum fine of up to P2 million, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said.
"The BSP proposes to increase the length of imprisonment to deter counterfeiting through amendment of existing laws... Our proposal for stiffer penalties will also take into consideration the current economic landscape as well as advancements in printing technologies," Diokno said.
BSP deputy director Eloisa Glindro said there has been a 7 percent increase in documented counterfeit banknotes in 2021 compared to the previous year, but it remains "significantly lower" compared to 2017 to 2019.
The BSP said it seized over 12,400 pieces of counterfeit Philippine money worth over P7.8 million from 2010 to 2021. Over 14,300 pieces of counterfeit US dollars worth $92.5 million have also been confiscated, it added.
The total was a result of about 110 law enforcement operations that also arrested 179 fraudsters, Diokno said.
From 2010 to 2021, the central bank seized a total of 28,419 counterfeit banknotes including Philippine Peso, US Dollars and other foreign currencies, data showed.
The BSP earlier reminded the public to regularly inspect banknotes, even those coming from banks' automated teller machines (ATMs).
Suspected fake bills should be reported to the ATM's issuing bank. The bank will then investigate before reporting the matter to the central bank.
Despite the warning, Diokno assured the public that ATMs are secure.
“The country’s ATM system performs soundly under recognized risk management guidelines. We also assure the public that mechanisms are in place for reporting potentially suspicious banknotes as part of a comprehensive approach in safeguarding Philippine currencies," he said.
He said the advisory was issued in response to questions and other reports received by the central bank's social media pages.
The BSP said it is also pushing for the use of polymer banknotes, which aside from being able to last longer compared to paper, it is also harder to fake.
Plastic or polymer P1,000 bills are set to circulate in the middle of the year.
The Bankers Association of the Philippines meanwhile sought to assure the public on eradicating the circulation of counterfeit banknotes.
"Banks implement strict cash management services protocols and meticulous security procedures to follow Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) guidelines for the transit and loading of fit banknotes in ATMs. Peso banknotes from the BSP Cash Management Department are timely, safely, and securely transported for loading to ATMs," the association said in a statement.
"While bills in ATMs do not come directly from a bank’s transactions of the day, banks have always maintained qualified personnel trained and equipped to identify counterfeit banknotes to prevent these fake banknotes from entering the banking system," it explained.
The BAP called on the public to immediately report to authorities anyone holding a counterfeit banknote.
"The making and importing of counterfeit money is a criminal act, and we join the BSP’s call for vigilance in identifying counterfeit money."