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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Digital transactions/E-finance rise with strict quarantine measures

E-finance way to go with the COVID-19 pandemic

MANILA – With the national government’s resolve to contain the pandemic to its minimum, tight quarantine measures have been in place since mid-March. With restricted travel, digital services and platforms have become the primary means of transaction among Filipinos as digital payments have become a necessity.

According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Asst. Governor Iluminada Sicat said the BSP noted a marked increase in electronic fund transfers vis-à-vis automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals and check transactions during the tight quarantine measures from March to May. Ms. Sicat bared their findings during her presentation at the 18th Policy Research Month (DPRM) virtual kickoff forum recently.

With the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19, there will be an increase in digital transactions “even as lockdown measures are eased.”

She underscored the government’s initiatives to digitalize payments for social benefits, wages, and transportation will further increase digital payment platforms. She added the creation of a national ID system in the country is being pursued to establish a verifiable digital identity for Filipinos, “which will enable them to open bank accounts… and gainfully participate in an increasingly digital economy.”

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), local governments have also adopted various technologies to help their constituents. In Makati City, Mayor Abigail Binay implemented some innovations to make financial services more accessible and convenient. Contactless financial aid distribution, through the Makatizen card and application, was introduced.

“I believe that leaders and citizens should embrace new technologies even at the time (when) there was (no) pandemic yet because it provides convenience. It also promoted public health by avoiding physical contact,” Binay said, one of the panelists in the DPRM virtual kickoff forum.

Deputy Governor Sicat said the 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey (FIS), she said there are opportunities in the country that should be explored in promoting the use of digital payments in the country.

Only 12 percent out of the 69 percent of adults who own a mobile phone use them for financial transactions. Only 9 percent of the 53 percent of adults with internet connection use it for financial transactions. Seven out of ten unbanked adults have a mobile phone, “which represents an untapped opportunity for digital finance.”

Despite the government programs to boost e-finance, Deputy Governor Sicat said there’s “lack of awareness and trust” as the main barriers in the use of mobile phone and internet for financial transactions.

“The BSP believes that promoting digital literacy plays a crucial role in deepening the public’s trust in digital financial services,” Ms. Sicat said. Widely shared access ti affordable and fast internet connection and the universal access to the national ID system will hasten and boost the reach of digital financial services.

The DPRM, led by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, is celebrated every September to promote nationwide awareness of the significance of policy research in crafting evidence-based policies, plans and programs, pursuant to Malacanang Proclamation No. 247 signed in 2002.This year’s theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the

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