Digitalization provided lift to Pinoys during pandemic, says BSP

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Digitalization has benefited Filipinos especially during the pandemic, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor Benjamin Diokno said on Friday, Feb. 19.

BSP governor Benjamin Diokno

In his speech during the Ulat ng BSP sa Bayan (BSP’s Report to the Nation) that was live-streamed over the agency’s Facebook page, Diokno said the pandemic provided a boost to the central bank’s bid to increase digital payment transactions in the country as more people preferred to use this payment mode to lessen exposure to the Covid-19 and because of the government movement restrictions.

“It is a good thing that the country had been gradually embracing financial technology even before the pandemic hit. For me, it prepared us for the worst,” he said.

Citing BSP data, he said the volume of PesoNet transactions rose by 376 percent year-on-year to 15.3 million last year. In terms of value, this amounts to P951.6 billion, up by 188 percent compared to the 2019 level. Diokno said this amount is equivalent to about 5.3 percent of the country’s annual output.

During the same year, InstaPay transactions increased to 86.7 million, 459 percent higher year-on-year. Total InstaPay transactions last year reached P463.4 billion, 340 percent up against the previous year’s level.

PesoNet and InstaPay are the two clearing houses under the central bank’s National Retail Payment System (NRPS) program.

Relatively, Diokno said new online sign-ups and app downloads for digital financial services in the first four months of 2020 rose 100 percent year-on-year.

With the rise of digital transactions, using hand-held devices and online facilities, there was a significant drop in check payments and automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals, he said.

Demand for coins also dropped by 57 percent in volume and 50 percent in value last year, he added.

He partly attributed this to “more accessible and more convenient e-payment options” along with “softer economic activities during the said period.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed unexpectedly catalyzed the rapid acceleration of digital transformation. The BSP took this opportunity to advance initiatives to push digitalization in the financial industry further,” he said.

With the increased utilization of digital payments solutions, Diokno cited the need for a reliable and stable internet connection, which, he said, “is a critical enabler and a necessity in the new economy.”

He said digitalization “help create opportunities for people to improve their lives and participate in the economic and financial system” and help boost the government’s financial inclusion bid.

“At the end of the day, it is not simply about what we innovate but why we do it and to whom we are doing it for. The current crisis has given us an opportunity to think out of the box and be bold, as we work to protect the interests of the people we serve. It showed us what to focus on, as a BSP closer to its people,” he added. — Joann Villanueva (PNA)

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