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BSP-led digital transition prepared PH economy for pandemic

By: - Reporter / @daxinq
/ 02:57 PM May 22, 2020

Substantial progress made in the government’s “digital transformation agenda” has helped prepare the country for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the ability to disburse cash aid to underprivileged beneficiaries through electronic means, according to the central bank.

In a statement, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said milestones in the institution’s digital payment initiatives mean the government can now use e-payments, use quick response codes, disburse small business wage subsidies electronically and transfer cash dole outs to electronic transaction-capable accounts.

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“Aside from providing convenience in receiving and making payments, digital payment initiatives pursued by the BSP will further enhance the country’s overall competitiveness as we begin to transition to the new economy,” he said.

The central bank chief noted that the number of entities participating in the EGovPay facility rose to 56 by end-March this year from only two when it was launched in November 2019.

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EGovPay allows individuals and businesses to pay taxes, permits, fees, and other items to the government electronically.

Participating government agencies include the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine National Police, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and different local government units.

By end-2020, 180 government entities are expected to be onboard the facility.

At the same time, 21 BSP-supervised financial institutions are set to join the existing seven others this year that now offer QR Ph services.

The adoption of QR Ph will accelerate digital payments with the efficiency of scanning standard quick response (QR) codes instead of encoding a payee’s account details.

While now only currently facilitating person-to-person payments, QR Ph will further penetrate the market with the projected availability of the person-to-merchant QR Ph in the fourth quarter of 2020.

This will enable merchants, including micro and small vendors, to accept e-payments by merely displaying a standard QR Code for their customers to scan.

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Majority of the Social Security System’s Small Business Wage Subsidy fund is being disbursed through PESONet, an electronic fund transfer service created under the National Retail Payment System initiated by the BSP.

The first tranche of wage subsidy covers 3.4 million eligible employees of small businesses shuttered by the enhanced community quarantine. It is expected that about 2.2 million beneficiaries with bank and e-money accounts will receive the handouts through PESONet. As of May 20, nearly 2 million subsidy disbursements were released via this method.

Finally, the conversion of nearly 3.9 million Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) accounts into interoperable transaction accounts is scheduled to be implemented by Landbank of the Philippines by August 2020 — a major development considering BSP’s target of a 70-percent financial inclusion rate by 2023.

Currently, deposits in 4P accounts with LandBank are limited to social aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The conversion will allow millions of 4P beneficiaries to receive funds from other sources including families, friends, local government units, and other benefactors through electronic fund transfers.

“These digital payment initiatives enhance coordinated government action and uplift the wellbeing of the Filipinos amid the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Diokno said. “Moving forward, we shall continue to build pathways toward a cash-lite Philippine economy.”

Edited by TSB

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