BSP unveils digital payments transformation roadmap  

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    The Monetary Board approved the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap 2020-2023 which charts the central bank’s current initiatives and strategy in advancing an “efficient, inclusive, safe and secure digital payments ecosystem.”

    BSP said the roadmap shall support the achievement of the BSP’s mandates and meet the diverse needs and capabilities of individuals and firms.

    The roadmap identifies two key strategic objectives.

    First, is the strengthening of customer preference for digital payments by converting 50 percent of the total volume of retail payments into digital form and expanding the number of the financially included to 70 percent of Filipino adults by onboarding them to the formal financial system through the use of payment or transaction accounts.

    The second is the availability of more innovative digital financial products and services designed to be responsive to the needs of consumers, enabled by a digital ID, Philippine Identification System or PhilSys, and supported by the availability of a next generation payment and settlement system to facilitate real-time processing of financial transactions.

    BSP said said objectives are strategically anchored on three critical pillars, which are envisaged to successfully transform the cash-heavy Philippine economy into a cash-lite economy.

    The first is the development of digital payment streams which will accelerate wider acceptance and use among individuals, businesses and the government.

    The second is the establishment of the necessary digital finance infrastructure to facilitate interoperability in the digital payments ecosystem, allowing providers to offer a wider array of affordable products and services.

    The third is the implementation of digital governance standards that will safeguard the integrity and privacy of consumer data, and ensure appropriate governance and regulation of digital products and services.

    Benjamin Diokno, Chairman of the Monetary Board and Governor of the BSP, said the roadmap also “recognized the broader challenges to the development of a digital payment ecosystem and financial inclusion, key among which is the state of access to and quality of internet connectivity.”

    Diokno said this challenge may be addressed by exploring the use of satellite communications technology in delivering internet connectivity to hard-to-reach rural places.

    “Our thrust to promote digitalization of payments is also strategically geared towards furthering financial inclusion as we view the two to be mutually reinforcing: They go hand in hand, with each one enabling the other,” Diokno said.

    He said that with the launch of the Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap, BSP aims to hit two birds with one stone.

    “We are securing the digitalization of payments, and increasing the number of Filipinos with access to financial services,” Diokno said, adding that the momentum for pursuing digital payments “has also been catalyzed by the recent lockdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Comparing data from 01 to 16 March 2020 and during the ECQ from 17 March to 31 May 2020, a significant decline in the volume and value of check payments and automated teller machine withdrawals was observed, suggesting that consumers are wary of the risk of exposure brought about by face-to-face transactions in the bank.

    PESONet and InstaPay transactions, meanwhile, remarkably increased by 74 percent, from 18.4 million prior to the COVID-19 lockdown to 32.1 million during the enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to May 31.

    At the same time, the 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey showed a notable increase in the number of e-money account owners from 1.3 percent of the adult population in 2017, to 8 percent in 2019.

    E-money providers have also reported record-high increases in their number of transactions and account users during the quarantine period, while latest data on the volume of transactions using PESONet and InstaPay manifest a sustained shift to digital payments demonstrating a substantial growth of 122 percent from 23 million to 51.2 million from the first to the second quarter of 2020.

    These developments indicate that there is a growing consumer sentiment to shift towards more digital payments.

    “The BSP’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap supports this remarkable development by providing our key stakeholders, such as banks, financial and payment service providers, fintech service players, and consumers with a helpful strategic guide in navigating the country’s whole of nation approach towards a digital payments-enabled economy,” Diokno said.