BSP urged to probe banks allegedly violating debt moratorium

Robie de Guzman   •   February 2, 2021   •   629

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday called on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to investigate “erring” banks and ensure compliance with the provisions under two laws passed to combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gatchalian made the call as he expressed concern over the reported non-compliance of some banks on the debt moratorium.

He pointed out that as the country’s regulator of the banking industry, the BSP is mandated to ensure that banks and credit card issuers strictly follow the laws and protect the consumers’ interests as provided for in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

The senator said the BSP should exercise its supervisory and regulatory powers over these erring banks by enforcing the provisions of the Bayanihan Laws as he noted the mounting complaints on consumer credit card received by the central bank.

“A kid gloves treatment will do no good at this time. Everyone is having a hard time financially and they should do their share as dictated upon by the law,” he said in a statement.

Last January 14, the BSP issued a circular letter ordering all banks to strictly comply with the prevailing regulations on credit cards and financial consumer protection as well as those under the Bayanihan laws.

Section 4 of the Bayanihan 2 requires banks to implement a non-extendible mandatory one-time 60-day grace period to all loans of individuals and entities that are existing, current and outstanding falling due on or before December 31, 2020.

“We anticipated that some loans would accrue interests because the party concerned has defaulted and that’s precisely the reason why we introduced these provisions in the laws, to protect the consumers amid the global health pandemic,” Gatchalian said.

“Huwag naman po sana tayong maging ganid para lang lumaki ang kita o tubo sa mga pinautang. Hindi tama na manantala sa mga taong gipit na lalo na kung nakasaad na ito sa batas. Dapat pairalin natin ang bayanihan sa gitna ng pandemya,” he added.

He further appealed to banks to instead help in the government’s efforts to recover from the economic slump amid the pandemic.

Bill seeking to amend PH Insurance Code filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to introduce amendments to the Philippine Insurance Code and place the Insurance Commission (IC) under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been filed at the Senate.

In lodging Senate Bill 2133, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go proposed to amend Presidential Decree No. 1460 or the Insurance Code of 1978 to explicitly include health maintenance organizations (HMO) into the law’s regulatory coverage which shall enable the Insurance Commission (IC) to provide stricter supervision.

Go said this will better protect the industry and the public from unscrupulous practices.

At present, HMOs are covered by the IC but Go said it is still unclear if the provisions of the Insurance Code apply to them.

“Itong finile ko po, kahit nasa ilalim ng Insurance Commission ang HMO, ‘di pa rin po malinaw kung nag-apply sa HMO ang mga provision ng Insurance Code. Mas maganda rin na nasa batas,” the senator said in a statement.

“Ang panukala ay naglalayong isali ang HMO sa Insurance Code para ma-protektahan ang interes ng mga kababayan natin at mahikayat ang competitive market sa health insurance industry,” he added.

According to Go, HMOs will be subjected to the provisions of the Code not explicitly provided for in Executive Order 192. These provisions include the commission’s powers to issue cease-and-desist orders to prevent fraud or injury to the public.

This also aims to enhance competition in the insurance industry and effectively improve insurance services for Filipinos.

Under the proposed amendments, the Insurance Commission will also be put under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which ensures that all financial service providers in the country are regulated by a single regulatory authority. The IC’s powers will also be amended under the proposal.

If passed into law, Go expressed optimism that the measure will benefit Filipinos investing in HMOs as it will provide them the necessary safeguards to ensure that their investments are protected.

BSP issues digital banking license for Overseas Filipino Bank

Robie de Guzman   •   April 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank) has officially become the first branchless digital-only bank in the country’s history after securing a digital banking license from the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

OFBank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), secured a digital banking license last March 25, the DOF said in a statement on Monday.

Prior to that, the bank was able to commence its banking operations in June last year using its then-existing license to operate as a thrift bank.

OFBank, under Executive Order (EO) No. 44 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in September 2017, was created to establish a policy bank dedicated to providing financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos.

“This milestone in the country’s banking history not only fulfills President Duterte’s campaign pledge to create a bank that caters to overseas Filipinos but will also help the Philippines leapfrog to the digital economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

“When President Duterte said he would create a bank that would serve overseas-based Filipinos, he wanted a bank that would be a trailblazer in terms of modernizing and expanding the scope of the services it offers to them,” he added.

OFBank was launched virtually in June last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the Philippines’ first branchless and digital-centric government bank, the DOF said.

While fine-tuning its operations, systems, and processes to enable its official transition into a digital bank, OFBank operated as a thrift bank, the DOF said.

In December 2020, the BSP issued Circular No. 1105 containing the guidelines on the establishment of digital banks, clearing the way for OFBank to apply for a license as a digital bank.

OFBank offers four digital products and services that include a digital onboarding system with artificial intelligence (DOBSAI), which allows the real-time opening of a mobile banking deposit account on supported iPhone or Android devices.

Aside from deposit savings accounts, OFBank’s digital services also include fund transfers, bill payments, and applications for multi-purpose loans, the DOF said.

OFBank’s global digital reach spans 112 countries, with its clients able to access online the services of 763 merchants onboarded in its mobile application via the LinkBiz.Portal, it added.

BSP clarifies grace period for loan payments in NCR Plus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The 30-day grace period on loan payments will not be extended as Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite were put under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In a statement, the BSP clarified the 30-day grace period on loan payments was only effective on June 1, 2020, and will not be extended as the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus Bubble goes under ECQ until April 4.

“The Omnibus Guidelines (with Amendments as of March 28, 2021) issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases does not operate to extend the 30-day grace period provided for under Republic Act No. 11469,” the statement reads.

With this, the BSP encourages BSP supervised financial institutions (BSFIs) to continue to provide relief measures to its clients by renewing, restructuring, or extending the terms of the loans based on their continuing assessment of their cash flows.

“The BSP has granted prudential relief measures to BSFIs to enable them to continue to provide financial services and support households and businesses amid the crisis,” the BSP added. AAC

 

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