BSP makes last-ditch push for reform measures

With only a few months remaining in the 18th Congress, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Friday reiterated its push for pending bills supportive of economic recovery amid the prolonged pandemic.

Specifically, the BSP was pushing for the passage of the following measures: financial products and services consumer protection act, bank deposits secrecy bill, bank accounts and e-wallets regulation bill, as well as amendments to the Agri-Agra Law and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.’s (PDIC) charter, Governor Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.

“The BSP’s legislative agenda aims to strengthen the banking system, foster financial inclusion, enhance the delivery of and address social issues related to access to financial products and services, and support economic growth,” Diokno said.

Diokno told senators this week that the financial consumer protection bill, once passed into law, will combat the proliferation of fraud and scams, both offline and online.

“The enactment of the financial consumer protection act is envisioned to provide an armor of protection to all financial consumers. It will ensure that relevant government institutions and financial regulators will be fully equipped with the legal authority to enforce prudent, responsible, and customer-centric standards of business conduct,” Diokno said.

As for the bank deposits secrecy bill, Diokno said it would equip the BSP with tools to prove fraud, irregularities and other unlawful activities among the institutions it supervises, including probe of shuttered banks. “The bill will also allow the BSP to holistically examine a banking institution to consider all risk areas in assessing a bank’s financial condition, risk management, and corporate governance,” he said.

The bank accounts and e-wallets regulation bill, meanwhile, would “protect people from falling prey to various cybercrime schemes,” Diokno said, as it would regulate and prohibit the use of financial accounts for criminal activities. “It will strengthen consumer protection and inspire trust and confidence in the financial system,” he added.

Amendments to Republic Act (RA) No. 10000 or the Agri-Agra Law of 2009 was also needed “to strengthen rural development and improve the well-being of agricultural and rural community beneficiaries by taking a holistic approach that considers the broader agricultural financing ecosystem and rural community development requirements,” the BSP chief said.

RA 10000 mandated banks to set aside a portion of their total loanable funds to the agriculture sector and agrarian reform beneficiaries. However, compliance had been low such that the BSP was pushing for alternative ways to comply, including “green” and sustainable loans or financing, by amending the law.

Amending the PDIC charter was also a priority for the BSP so it can directly supervise the state-run corporation.

Diokno was also supporting the pending amendments to the Foreign Investments and Public Service laws to further liberalize the economy and attract more foreign capital, which President Duterte’s economic managers were pushing for in lieu of removing the restrictions enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

“We should not let the COVID-19 pandemic derail our long-term goals. With or without a crisis, we should continue to pursue structural reforms that would put the Philippines not just on the road to pre-crisis growth but on a sustainable path of development,” according to Diokno.

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