From the standpoint of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the current COVID-19 pandemic is a “most opportune teachable moment.” Despite disrupting the rhythm and tempo of Filipinos’ daily lives, the acceleration of digital transformation has also fast-tracked their ability to comprehend and participate in online financial transactions, especially digital payments for basic goods and services. Even government has resorted to online transactions, given the periodic hardening of quarantine measures.
This is the context in which the BSP’s launching of a massive financial education campaign deserves the people’s full support and active participation.
As many as 60 million citizens are targeted to be reached by this campaign, starting with 29 basic education learners presently enrolled in grade school and high school.
Next in line are the estimated 10 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, (4Ps), whose entitlement to social safety net benefits has been institutionalized by the enactment of Republic Act 11310 in April 2019. This program involves direct cash transfers to those belonging to the proverbial “bottom of the pyramid” who used to be disenfranchised and marginalized. They now directly receive regular cash transfers to their own bank accounts, bypassing traditional politicians who used to control the release of benefits to maximize political mileage and prolong their tenure in public office.
Also prioritized are some 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are part of some 10 million Filipinos now living or working throughout the world. There are, indeed, many professionals such as doctors, nurses and paramedics who are now at the frontlines of the global response to the pandemic; also numerous are the seafarers and deck officers who are employed the world’s leading shippers. While this latter group may be more financially literate, they could also be engaged by the BSP as its partners in promoting financial literacy among their compatriots.
In 2007, the BSP gained the distinction of being the first central bank in the world to create an office especially dedicated to the promotion of financial inclusion. This was further buttressed by the enactment in February 2019 of Republic Act 11211 which mandated that financial inclusion and its complementary objectives of financial literacy and consumer protection be integrated into the BSP charter as follows: “In the attainment of its objectives, the Bangko Sentral shall promote broad and convenient access to high quality financial services and consider the interest of the general public.”
Completing the targeted sectors are 1.9 million fisherfolk; 1.4 million micro, small and medium enterprises; one million civil servants; and 800,000 teachers. It will also reach 220,000 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel, 140,000 soldiers or members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and 28,000 firefighters.
As declared by the BSP: “Financial inclusion lays the groundwork for sustainable and equitable national development. The goal of financial inclusion does not end in providing universal access to financial services but in ensuring that these services truly enhance the well-being of their users.”