By Lee C. Chipongian
While the central bank is reviewing each banks’ application for ATM (automated teller machine) rate adjustments, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has dispelled public concerns that transaction costs will become steeper.
In a statement Monday, the BAP said ATM fees will continue to be fair and sensible and that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will “ensure that the costs are reasonable and beneficial to the banking public.”
“We would like to assure the banking public of our commitment to serving them,” said BAP Managing Director Benjamin P. Castillo. “We will collaborate with the regulators to ensure that ATM fees remain market-driven and reasonable, while continuing to provide convenience and security to the banking public.”
BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno earlier also assured the public that the lifting of the six-year ban on ATM fee increase does not imply an automatic adjustment, that the BSP would have to review each proposals submitted by banks.
In the meantime the BAP said the six-year moratorium on ATM transaction fees has “held back banks optimal performance in servicing and expanding their reach.”
“The number of cardholders has been increasing for the past six years. Banks need to keep up with the maintenance and innovation of ATMs, as well as expansion of ATM network to accommodate the surge of ATM usage,” said Castillo.
He said the annual ATM deployments was growing at an average rate of 13 percent before the moratorium was implemented in 2013.
Since the moratorium, ATM growth has dropped to just 6.4 percent per year, on average. ATM transaction volume however increased from 2014 up to the present, said BAP. Banks’ expenses also expanded since 2014 from operational activities such as loading, servicing, complaints handling, reconciliation, software, capacity expansion and security, it added.
According to data shared by the BAP, ATM density in the country is low compared with ASEAN peers.
It estimated that with just 21,000 ATMs in operation servicing 58 million ATM cardholders, the ratio is 20 ATMs per capita of 100,000 cardholders. Other countries in the region have higher ratios. Thailand has 94 ATMs per 100,000 cardholders, while Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have 49, 45 and 40, respectively.