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The peso’s makeover from an insider’s view

By Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:25:00 01/01/2011

Filed Under: Government, Politics, Banking

MANILA, Philippines ? You can?t please everyone.

This immortal tenet came to the fore once more after President Benigno S. Aquino III recently unveiled the country?s next generation of peso bills to replace the ones currently in circulation since the late 1980s.

Less than three days after the ceremonial launch of the banknotes, a few critics? mostly heard and read on various online fora?tore into several elements of the designs.

The bulk of the criticism centered on the beak of the so-called Blue-naped parrot on the reverse side of the new P500 bill (what was supposed to be red was rendered in a gray-brown hue) and the ?mis-located? Tubattaha Reef on the reverse side of the P1,000 (the marker that was supposed to denote it on the Philippine map was located farther south than its actual position).

These comments were characterized by most observers as petty, with no less than President Aquino pointing out that the accuracy of Tubbataha Reef on the blue P1,000 bills is a minor issue since the bills are not meant to be used as navigation aids anyway.
The early criticism, which came long before the general public got hold of the actual bills, dampened the festive mood that initial met the introduction of the bills.

Nonetheless, one of the firms that helped design the new bills recently came forward to explain the process that went into the long and exhaustive process that went into creating the newest edition of the country?s money.

According to Design Systemat president Lito Buñag, printing banknotes is not like printing brochures.

?In producing banknotes, the reproduction technologies involved from implanting security features to the ?intaglio? printing of the visual content is far different from commercially printing brochures in the sense that the complete visual imagery of an object, landscape or a personality is not printed faithfully as in a four-color offset printing of a brochure,? he says.

Indeed, Buñag has a current banknote from New Zealand which where a local bird is rendered in blue and green colors while the real species is colored brown and orange.

According to him, two earlier studies prepared by his company representing the new P500 design at various stages of development shows a red beak on the Blue-naped parrot. This color was changed by the printers, however, to account for practical printing concerns.

?There was no error,? he says. ?The design approved by the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) had a parrot with a red beak. But all the colors on the P500 have to be hues that are close to yellow.?

Buñag knows whereof he speaks, as his team has worked on previous Philippine peso bill designs before, dating back to the Marcos years.

?As can be gleaned from foreign banknotes, they are largely monochromatic,? he says. ?This is not an error but a function of printing capability limitations. Intaglio printing is limited in full color reproduction.?

The Design Systemat chief also notes that the alleged ?mis-location? of the Tubbataha Reef was, in fact, due to the location of a critical security feature on all the peso bill denominations.

This security feature?a smaller version of the particular species of fauna on the bills? reverse sides?was located right on top of where the actual location of Tubbataha Reef on the map.

Faced with the choice of locating a key security feature on the standard position on the bill or locating the Tubbataha market correctly, the bills? French printers decided to move the reef market slightly south on the Philippine map (thus leading to the criticism about its alleged mis-location).

The design concept and visualization hinges on selective decisions (choices) which happen in the technical process from ?securitization? to engraving to printing, etc.

Buñag adds that the world-famous reef is, in fact, not a single isolated location that can be denoted by one pin on a map.

?The reef is a vast marine park, now involving 90,000-plus square kilometers,? he says. ?It is part of a million-square kilometer eco-region that spans the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas.

?Therefore, the location marker placed by BSP on what is a simple schematic diagram of the Philippine Islands?or an ?abstraction? as BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo describes it?is not an error as it is very much within the vast area covered by the Tubbataha Reef Natural Marine Park,? he adds.

Despite the flak that the new bills received from a few noisy elements in cyberspace, Buñag expressed his pride and gratitude for having been able to contribute to the design of the country?s new peso bills.

?We would like to express our gratitude to the BSP for giving us this opportunity to do our share in the expression and projection of the Philippines? vibrant history, culture and life through the design and visualization of the banknotes,? he says.

And yes, they can?t please everyone.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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