Banks asked to restructure loans


    THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has asked banks to consider allowing the restructuring of loans for consumers and industries hit by the lingering effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno, in an interview with DZMM, likewise encouraged banks to suspend charges on online banking transactions to encourage consumers to tap digital platforms for their banking needs.

    The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), in a statement, said it supports the initiatives and guidance provided by the national government and its agencies in addressing the health crisis brought about by COVID-19.

    The BAP said it is in constant close coordination with the BSP to ensure continuity of banking services and operations to serve the public.

    Diokno said platforms like Pesonet and Instapay, which currently slap charges for online charges, can waive the charges. By lessening cash fees, face-to-face transactions will also be lessened.

    Diokno assured cash availability in automated teller machines (ATMs) despite the unusual cash withdrawal ahead of the quarantine.

    “Banks withdrew from BSP. We would like to assure (consumers) they can withdraw but at the same time we encourage them to pay electronically,” he said.

    He added BSP acknowledges the economy will take a hit especially industries like tourism and establishments that cater to the sector, as well as retail with the imposition of curfew, mall closures, suspension of classes, adjusted work schedules and limited transportation.

    “(Consumers and industries) can request the banks to extend, if they have due (accounts) to restructure… we will allow that, (they will) not pay loans for so many months… we will allow… encourage that because that is important, to give breathing space to those affected.

    We will help to the extent they are affected,” Diokno said.

    He assured that government has enough fiscal space and has a healthy debt-to-GDP ratio.

    “We have funds,” Diokno said.

    The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has put more teeth in limiting the operations of manufacturing, retail and service establishments in Metro Manila with the release on Monday of a memorandum circular (MC) detailing the guidelines during the duration of the community quarantine or until April 14.

    MC 20-04 signed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez on March 15 mandates establishments to remain open subject to social distancing among employees and safety and health measures.

    The MC curbs mall operations, limiting those that are allowed to be open to stores offering basic necessities and services such as groceries and supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, health clinics, bookstores, hardwares and food stalls for takeout/deliveries. Business process outsourcing located in malls will be allowed to operate.

    Ordered closed are businesses offering leisure and entertainment such as those serving alcoholic like nightclubs, bars, taverns, cocktail lounges, discotheques, beer parlors and pubs; arts, entertainment and recreation activities/places such as live performances and events, concerts and the like; gambling facilities such as casinos, bingo halls, and video gaming terminals and those that offer gambling activities such as lotteries and off-track betting.

    Lopez said in his order that lessors and owners of these business spaces shall share the responsibility by waiving the corresponding rental fees and charges of stores during the closure.

    Lopez said those which will remain open can seek discounts from their lessors.

    The MC also outlines the number of people that should be allowed inside an establishment at one person per square meter of unimpeded spaces.

    Retail establishments are also directed to implement strict sanitary measures within their work areas and report to authorities those employees who will show signs and symptoms of COVID-19.