PH banknotes polymerization

Published December 3, 2021, 6:45 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

Polymerization is used here in loose terms lest I may be reprimanded.

For professional chemists, polymerization is actually a process in which relatively small molecules, called monomers, combine chemically to produce a very large chainlike or network molecule, called a polymer. Polymer can be naturally occurring or synthetic and accounts for many of the materials in living organisms as well as the basic foundation of many minerals and man-made materials.

This man-made material is, actually, what I’m focusing on in relation to the plan of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to pilot test polymer banknotes. The new P1,000 denomination made of polymer material will enter circulation next year.

Actually, the polymer banknote is a pet endeavor of retired ace banker BSP Governor Amado “Say” M. Tetangco, Jr. In July 2009, Gov. Say announced the BSP will shift to the use of polymer in printing banknotes.

However, it was shelved with the launch of the New Generation Currency series with enhanced security features in 2010. Still, Gov. Say had the foresight then as the quality and characteristics of polymer series notes have improved. Now, polymer banknotes are thin and flexible plastic.

The shift was resurrected this year. The revival was pandemic-induced mainly due to its durability features. With its protective plastic like coating finish, it’s water proof, dirt resistant, and more importantly less prone to soiling and damage or tearing.

Going polymer is also part of the BSP mantra of going green. As a signatory to COP26, using polymer reduces the country’s carbon footprints because it is less polluting, and the production process of the material is more energy-efficient.

Also, it is cost-effective because it lasts longer than the banknotes currently in circulation. Although, the production costs may be higher, it’s durable, a quality which is described to be four times better than abaca-cotton made banknotes.

The polymerization of Philippine banknotes has long been coming. The first country to develop and use polymer was Australia, in 1988, largely to decrease if not altogether prevent incidence of counterfeiting.

At present, there are about 57 economies issuing polymer banknotes, including developed countries Canada, New Zealand and London. And in this part of the world, we have been overtaken by our regional peers. Prior to the regional financial crisis, the Kingdom of Brunei issued polymer banknotes in $1,5, and 10 denominations; Indonesia in 1999 and take this, Bangladesh with its 10 taka.

The wheels of life have churned faster. Only 28 days to go and voila, it’s New Year. So don’t be baffled, much more perplexed if come April next year when your ATM dispenses a P1,000 with plastic like feel and slight change in design. It’s real, not fake because if all systems go, the P1,000 polymer banknotes will be circulating in the financial system alongside with the abaca-cotton counterpart denomination.

Let’s go polymers!

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