In its latest report on the state of financial inclusion in the Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas provided an assessment of how access to and usage of financial services has changed in the past five years (2011-2015).
According to the report, financial access has expanded in terms of number and reach of banks and other financial institutions. There is also improvement in usage of financial services as seen in the growth of deposits, loans, microfinance, and electronic money.
For access, worth highlighting is the growth in micro-banking offices (MBOs) which are low-cost banking infrastructure that can be established in municipalities where it is not feasible to set up a regular branch.
While regular branches continue to increase in number, they remain concentrated in the National Capital Region.
MBOs have been more contributory to financial inclusion by extending the reach of financial services to underserved and unserved areas.
Majority of MBOs are located in areas outside Metro Manila particularly in the regions of CALABARZON, Bicol, Western Visayas, and MIMAROPA.
Most municipalities that were previously unbanked are now enjoying access to banking services because of MBOs.
There are 617 MBOs based on the latest available count as of June 2016, an increase of 93 percent from 320 MBOs during the same period in 2012.
The number of local government units (LGUs) with MBOs grew by 105 percent to 393 LGUs in June 2016 from 192 LGUs in June 2012.
To date, 75 municipalities are being served by MBOs alone. MBOs increased at an average year-over-year rate of 18 percent which is faster than the growth of other types of banking offices (4 percent) and ATMs (13 percent).
When it comes to usage of basic savings accounts, there has been a remarkable growth in micro-deposits which are specifically designed to the low-income sector.
A micro-deposit account has a maintaining balance not more than P100 with average daily balance not exceeding P40,000. This deposit account does not have dormancy charges.
The number of micro-deposit accounts grew by 217 percent to 2.9 million accounts in June 2016 from 925,389 accounts in June 2012.
The total amount of micro-deposits increased by 181 percent to P6.3 billion in June 2016 from P2.2 billion in June 2012.
Micro-deposit accounts grew at an average rate of 34 percent which is faster than the growth of other deposit products which grew by 6 percent.
While the environment for financial inclusion continues to improve, changes appeared to be gradual and slower in comparison with our peers.
For instance, data from the World Bank indicate that the share of Filipino adults with a formal account increased by 4.7 percentage points to 31.3 percent in 2014 from 26.6 percent in 2011 which appears modest compared to the improvement among lower middle income countries which is 14 percentage points.
Recognizing that much work needs to be done, BSP remains committed in nurturing a conducive environment to financial inclusion.
At the national level, BSP is leading the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) together with fourteen (14) other government agencies. In June 2016, Executive Order No. 208 was signed to institutionalize the Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC), the governing body that provides strategic direction and overall guidance in the NSFI implementation.
The NSFI aims to systematically accelerate the level of financial inclusion in the country through greater collaboration between public and private sector stakeholders.
BSP also plans to establish the Knowledge Resource Network (KRN), an initiative at information and knowledge sharing that aims to enhance the public’s understanding of economic and financial concepts and issues, one of the bank’s key objectives.
Conceived to be in partnership with libraries of the local government units, national agencies and academic institutions all over the country, BSP will set up Knowledge Resource Collections that will house updated BSP publications such as books, reports, guides, manuals, primers and brochures, provide access to online publications and research assistance services to the public.
These information resources and services will be made available to the communities for free.
BSP envisions KRN to be a catalyst for economic development by empowering the public to make informed and better economic and financial decision through easy access to information and services.
The program involves setting up of a BSP Resource Collection in each partner library where BSP publications shall be displayed; training of partner librarians to maximize BSP information resources; and active participation of both BSP and partner libraries in information resource sharing.
Specifically, the BSP will provide free updated BSP publications, signage and BSP logo for the BSP Resource Collections; conduct free training/briefing sessions on online publications and research/statistical databases available on the BSP’s website; provide reference and research service assistance to partner libraries on subjects related to economics and finance; and review and evaluate effectiveness of the program.
In turn, the partner libraries will be expected to provide the physical space, shelves, and computers needed for BSP publications; ensure discoverability by cataloging all BSP publications and make them available for library clients; coordinate with the BSP, through the EFLC Main Office or EFLCs in regional offices and branches (ROBs), regarding client requests for economic and financial information materials; monitor the use of BSP materials and ensure prompt action on research requests; and submit quarterly reports to the BSP.
The KRN is expected to be launched nationwide in February 2017.