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The Philippines Enhances National Strategy for Financial Inclusion

The Philippines’ central bank, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), has refreshed its six-year-old National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) to make it more current and to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and greater digitalisation of financial services. The BSP will launch an enhanced version of the current NSFI in January 2022. The Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC), an interagency committee in charge of the NSFI and chaired by the BSP, agreed to alter and update the NSFI on November 9.

“The plan must evolve in tandem with the landscape,” BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno remarked. “This pushes the bank to reassess the initial strategic plan and ensure that the NSFI continues to be a flexible framework for promoting financial inclusion across the country.”

The National Survey on Financial Institutions (NSFI) was originally introduced in July 2015 and the most recent national survey on FI as an official report was in 2019. The BSP publishes quarterly FI data on its website, the most recent of which was in the fourth quarter of 2020. The objective of the NSFI is to promote and develop public-private collaboration and financial inclusion policies and programmes. The Financial Institutions Surveillance Commission (FISC) developed an inclusive financial system in 2015.

According to Diokno, there is still more work to be done to make formal financial services available to everybody, and the pandemic and rapid development of digital technology are bringing new opportunities as well as obstacles in the pursuit of financial inclusion.

The BSP said the new NSFI will encompass six years from 2022 to 2028, with strategies transformed into priority activities, key performance indicators, and targets. The bank emphasised that this is a shift from the present NSFI, which lays out the principles for achieving financial inclusion but does not include a timescale or goals.

To update the NSFI, the BSP and the Asian Development Bank are holding ongoing consultation workshops and actively requesting views from the banking and other sectors. According to Diokno, who spoke at the BSP’s recent “Financial Education Expo,” Filipinos’ financial behaviour has changed because of the pandemic.

“Some for the better (and) they are prioritising saving, availing health and life insurance, and preparing for retirement to provide better financial opportunities for themselves and their families during and beyond the pandemic,” he said. This was one of the updated information that the national FI survey aims to capture.

OpenGov Asia reported the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on broadening the provision of internet service through satellite services is seen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as further promoting financial inclusion and digital finance in the country. The IRR, issued in September by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) under Department Circular No. 002, Series of 2021, aims to promote the development of an inclusive and vibrant satellite industry by liberalising access to satellite systems.

Increased access to satellite services is expected to hasten the rollout of internet connectivity for the country’s unserved, underserved, geographically isolated, and disadvantaged areas. With the issuance of the IRR, banks, fintech companies, and other financial sector entities will be guided even further in their exploration of ways to use satellite technology for their operations, particularly in expanding presence in underserved communities.

As financial transactions and services shift to online platforms, internet connectivity is recognised as a critical enabler of financial and economic inclusion. Banks and other financial service providers (FSPs) will be able to better serve rural areas with more access points, such as automated teller machines and cash agent services that rely on internet connectivity, as internet service is expanded.

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