The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has issued a stronger reprimand to all banks operating automated teller machines (ATMs) to make sure that what they are dispensing are legal tender cash and not counterfeit money.
The BSP on Friday, Jan. 28, released its second public advisory and warning for this week, the first was last Tuesday, Jan. 25, reminding Filipinos to carefully inspect and scrutinize cash from ATMs.
“ATM services are part of core banking functions, and banks are bound by law to exercise the highest degree of diligence in protecting their clients’ interest. The BSP will hold the banks accountable should they fail to observe measures to protect their clients,” the BSP told both the public and the banking sector on Friday.
The BSP reminded banks that they are responsible in guaranteeing that cash or banknotes from their ATMs are “genuine” as per the BSP’s Financial Consumer Protection Framework, which “requires financial service providers, such as banks, to conduct ethical business practices and not to engage in any practice that may cause harm to the consumer.”
In a separate statement, the 45-member Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) said banks are implementing strict cash management services protocols. BAP also said they follow BSP’s guidelines on “meticulous security procedures” for the “transit and loading of fit banknotes in ATMs.”
“Peso banknotes from the BSP Cash Management Department are timely, safely, and securely transported for loading to ATMs,” assured BAP. The group also noted that “while bills in ATMs do not come directly from a bank’s transactions of the day, banks have always maintained qualified personnel trained and equipped to identify counterfeit banknotes to prevent these fake banknotes from entering the banking system.”
BSP also reiterated its assurance to the public that the country’s ATM system are sound and follow their risk management guidelines, as well as the BSP’s “comprehensive approach to safeguarding the Philippine currency” which includes “well-defined mechanisms for reporting doubtful currencies, for examination by the BSP.”
“Thus, the public is encouraged to report any untoward incident to their respective banks or the BSP, for appropriate action,” the central bank said.
The BSP has been pursuing the passage of the Financial Products and Services Protection Act, or the Financial Consumer Protection Act in the Lower House.
The BSP said the legislative measure, if enacted, will address the gaps in the existing laws and will “better equip financial regulators, such as the BSP, with adequate legal authority to respond to complaints and enforce prudent, responsible, and customer-centric standards of business conduct.”
The BAP, meantime, also reassured the public that the industry “is a proactive partner in eradicating the circulation of counterfeit banknotes.”
“In the event, however, that the public suspects they are holding a counterfeit banknote, we encourage everyone to immediately report to the authorities for the immediate resolution of this issue,” said the BAP. “The making and importing of counterfeit money is a criminal act, and we join the BSP’s call for vigilance in identifying counterfeit money,” it added.
Based on BSP Circular No. 829, issued in 2014, banks are required to submit suspicious banknotes to the BSP for further examination.
On Thursday, Jan. 27, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said the BSP is strengthening its currency operations by proposing to raise the penalty for crimes involving currency counterfeiting and to criminalize the hoarding of coins.
“The BSP proposes to increase the length of imprisonment to deter counterfeiting through amendment of existing laws,” said Diokno.
Under Republic Act No. 10951, apprehended banknotes or currency counterfeiters will be imprisoned for at least 12 years and one day, and they will pay a fine of not more than P2 million.
The BSP based on Section 50 of Republic Act No. 7653 or “The New Central Bank Act”, is “vested with police authority to investigate, make arrests, and conduct searches and seizures in accordance with law, for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the currency.”
The BSP has carried out 110 law enforcement operations that resulted in the arrest of 179 suspects, said Diokno. Majority of counterfeiters are members of crime syndicates.
“These also led to the seizure of more than 12,400 pieces of counterfeit Philippine banknotes with a notional value of more than P7.8 million,” he added.
About 14,300 pieces of counterfeit US dollar banknotes worth $92.5 million were also seized by the BSP in the last 11 years.