MANILA - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ push for financial inclusion made big gains during the pandemic as the number of banked Filipinos hit 53 percent this year from just 29 percent in 2019.
“As of the first quarter of 2021, the proportion of banked Filipino adults has reached 53 percent, nearing the target of 70 percent," said BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno during a virtual forum.
In contrast, in 2017 only 22.6 percent of Filipino adults had a formal financial account--meaning accounts in either banks, e-wallets, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, non-stock savings and loan associations. The BSP is looking to raise this to 70 percent by 2023.
According to Aries Baloran, financial adviser from multinational financial literacy advocacy group Empower and Transform, the pandemic as well as the rise of digital banking led to the growth in the number of Filipinos getting bank accounts.
Baloran also said the adoption of e-wallets as well as the growth in online shopping led to financial inclusion.
"We have GCash, Paymaya, pumasok pa si Alibaba and si Shopee and Lazada, where all transactions are done digitally. So wala nang way para makapag-transact kung hindi ka mago-open ng bank [account] (There is now way you can transact without opening a bank account)," he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
People also realized the value of having a bank account and savings during the pandemic, Baloran said.
"Na-realize nila the importance of [having an] emergency fund na may huhugutin pag nagkaroon ng problem just like this. Yung mag dating walang bank account napilitan na mag-open.,” he said.
The BSP aims to transform the country from a 'cash-heavy economy', or one that uses cash for transactions, into a 'cash-light economy', or one that relies more on digital transactions.
This includes converting half of the total volume of retail payments in to digital form by offering faster, more affordable, and convenient payment options.
Despite recent concerns regarding online banking security, Baloran said account-holders should look at it as a learning opportunity for banks.
"That is a blessing in disguise na lumabas na yun as early as now para ang mga bangko ay mag-upgrade ng kanilang systems. We are prone to hacking and phishing, ang daming pwedeng i-link pag digital ka, problems will arise but it will give chance to improve the security aspects of banks," he said.
(This is a blessing in disguise that this issue came up as early as now so banks can upgrade their systems. This is an opportunity to improve the security aspects of banks.)