BSP eyes wider access to bank services

By Prinz P. Magtulis, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 12 2012 08:10 AM | Updated as of Sep 12 2012 04:10 PM

MACTAN, CEBU, Philippines— The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is drafting a roadmap that aims to ensure majority of Filipinos here and abroad have access to financial services, an official said yesterday.

“We are on track to finishing a national roadmap for financial inclusion by the fourth quarter,” BSP managing director Johnny Noe Ravalo told participants at the plenary sessions of the Asian Seminar on Financial Literacy and Financial Services held here beginning yesterday.

Financial inclusion, one of BSP’s core mandates, is a situation when the public has access to financial services such as banks, pawnshops, or even mobile banking platforms. The assumption is with more access to these mechanisms, getting credit for consumption and investment purposes would be easier.

A total of 23 percent of the population are “unserved” by any financial institution as of 2011, according to Ravalo. This number rises to 37 percent, he added, if one would only consider access to banking services.

“At some point, we could reduce that (percentage) but first, with this roadmap, we would like to see where do we go from here? How do we reduce the time of going to bank and making delivery of services more effective?” he explained.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., who chairs the committee drafting the roadmap, said activities to be outlined in the blueprint will be implemented within the next two years “but will have an impact even beyond that.”

“We are leveraging on the system we have in place to further expand the reach of the formal banking system,” Tetangco said.

BSP has set regulatory framework for the establishment of microfinance offices – small offices providing credit for small needs – in a bid to boost financial inclusion in the country. As of last year, a total of 187 microfinance institutions with total loan portfolio of P7 billion and savings amounting to P4 billion was established nationwide, latest BSP data showed

There were also more applications for micro-banking offices (MBOs) or small banks established on far-flung areas and allowed to take in deposits, payments for bills and receive and sent remittances.

Figures showed a total of 108 banks applied for 822 MBOs as of August. Existing MBOs, on the other hand, have a total of P186 million worth of deposits, it added.

Tetangco said financial inclusion in the Philippines could improve if mobile banking services – or electronic payments of goods and services through the cellular phones and the like – would entice more users.

Currently, there are only 197,500 registered mobile banking users compared to more than 86 million mobile phone users, he said.

“We have a lot to share but we also have a lot more to learn,” the BSP chief said.

The two-day seminar which will end today was sponsored by BSP and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and was targeted at evaluating countries’ strategies for financial inclusion.

There were roughly 200 fellows from all over the region who attended the seminar, including officials from the central banks in China, Samoa and Indonesia.