Landbank to restore ATM access by Sunday, says outage was ‘not a hack’
Over three million depositors and clients of Land Bank of the Philippines will be able to access their funds via automated teller machines and electronic banking facilities “by Sunday morning” after a computer system breakdown that began Thursday evening forced the state-owned firm to revert to manual transactions at its branches.
Long lines formed outside the branches of Landbank – the country’s fourth largest financial institution – after it announced that withdrawals would be processed over-the-counter even during the weekend.
One social media post on Saturday showed hundreds of people lined up in a long snaking queue outside Landbank’s Davao City branch on C.M. Recto Avenue – a scene that was repeated in many of the 153 offices that the bank kept open on Saturday to service withdrawals.
“Our ATM system has been down for 48 hours now and our branches had to service over-the-counter withdrawals by cardholders who are badly inconvenienced by very long queues,” Landbank president and CEO Alex Buenaventura said in a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Saturday afternoon.
“Our information technology group targets to have ATMs up by tomorrow, Sunday,” he added. “We will also have a skeletal force in our branches to assist in case there will still be problems.”
The government banking giant has 1,865 ATMs nationwide to service the payroll accounts payroll accounts of an estimated 1.5 million government workers and 1.8 million conditional cash transfer beneficiaries whose state subsidies are paid through Landbank ATM cards.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one bank official told the Inquirer that the ATM services of the government financial institution might be restored as early as Saturday evening, but that the bank could only commit to Sunday morning as a definite timeframe.
In a telephone interview, Landbank corporate affairs head Catherine Villanueva said the bank’scomputer system staffers, along with their external service provider IBM, were still working to determine the root cause of the outage that coincided with the scheduled distribution to clients of more secure EMV ATM cards, the payout of benefits to senior citizens, as well as the fortnightly release of salaries for government teachers.
“What we can assure the public of is that there was no hacking and no breach of our systems,‘ she said, explaining that official opted to shut down ATM and electronic banking services to ensure that clients’ data are not compromised. “We’re looking for the root cause, but for now, it looks like a database problem.”
Villanueva said initial investigation results point to a “system issue,” rather than human error which was blamed for a similar lengthy ATM and electronic banking outage that hit the Bank of the Philippine Islands in June 2017.
To mitigate the service interruption, she said the bank decided to implement a “quick fix” that called for 153 or its 380 branches to stay open on Saturday.
The bank announced that interbranch withdrawals would be accommodated, but amid reports of many depositors being unable to withdraw their funds, the official said the bank opted not to process transactions where one branch did not have complete access to records from the client’s “home branch.”
“We don’t want to make errors, so we are leaning toward the side of caution,” the official said. /atm
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