Banks prepared to take profit hit to lift economy from COVID-19: official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 10:24 AM | Updated as of Mar 31 2020 12:18 PM

A customer wearing a face mask withdraws money from an ATM inside a supermarket in Quezon City. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA -- Philippine banks will do their part to help revive the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, even if it means taking a profit hit, the head of an industry group said Tuesday.

Some 30 percent of bank branches in Luzon are open, mostly in key areas to serve as many as possible. Around 90 percent of ATMs are running, said Banker's Association of the Philippines President Cezar Consing.

"A bank like us is prepared to make no money and in some cases, lose money, to do our part," said Consing, also president of the Bank of the Philippine Islands. He said BPI was lending to corporations at a rate that is "very near" its most recent bond offering.

"We all realize we have to help... If that means lower profits, so be it. If that means extended payment terms, so be it," he told ANC.

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The economic fallout from COVID-19 is shaping up to be "far worse" than global financial crises in 1997 and 2008, he said. In the Philippines, it is comparable to the 1983 debt restructuring crisis that resulted in 3 years of negative growth, he said.

The Philippines is "a lot stronger now" than in 1983 due to lower debt levels and ample liquidity, but that doesn't mean that jobs will not be lost or businesses will not close, he said.

"The ability to recover from this adversity is a lot better than anytime in our history," he said.