House seeks inquiry on looming ATM fee hike

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2019   •   1326

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to conduct an inquiry into the looming increase in the fee for withdrawing cash from automated teller machines (ATM) following the lifting of the six-year moratorium imposed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The lifting of the freeze on ATM fee hike has raised concerns among lawmakers that banks would jack up charges by as much as 50 percent based on the rates they proposed before the moratorium was implemented in 2013.

“We are worried that the forthcoming increases in ATM charges might harm consumers – the nation’s more than 58 million ATM cardholders,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos said in a statement.

“Even more vulnerable are our estimated 4.1 million minimum wage earners. Many of them receive and withdraw their salaries twice a month through their ATM cards at the machine nearest them,” he said.

Campos filed House Resolution No. 210, which seeks the House Committee on banks and financial intermediaries to probe on the looming ATM fee increase following the issuance of Memorandum No. M-2019-020 by the BSP this year.

A survey of ATM fees shows that banks currently charge between P10 to P15 per interbank withdrawal transaction, and P2 per interbank balance inquiry.

Campos said these charges could jump to as much as P15 to P30 per interbank withdrawal or possibly even higher, with the removal of the moratorium.

In his resolution, Campos pointed out there now exists “a virtual monopoly in the network that interconnects all of the country’s 21,682 ATMs.”

ExpressNet Inc. outsourced its ATM network to BancNet Inc. in 2008, and BancNet and MegaLink Inc. merged their ATM networks in 2015, with BancNet as the surviving entity, while MegaLink has since been repurposed, Campos said.

“In this case, we are clearly compelled under The Consumer Act, or Republic Act 7394, to conduct an inquiry so as to safeguard the rights of ATM users,” he added.

BSP to release new P20 coin in 2020

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Monday announced that the 20-peso coin will be released in circulation in 2020 after its ceremonial launch in December.

In a statement, the BSP said once it is released, the new 20-peso coin will co-exist with the P20 New Generation Currency (NGC) banknotes as legal tender.

The P20 will be gradually removed from circulation through natural attrition, the central bank added.

Citing a study conducted by the University of the Philippines, the BSP noted that the P20 banknote is the most-used denomination for payment so it is easily rendered unfit for circulation and returned for replacement.

“The issuance of a coin in lieu of a banknote is more cost-efficient in terms of currency production in the long run,” the central bank explained.

Official photographs and specifications of the 20-peso NGC coin will be presented by BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno during the launch.

The BSP assured that the new 20-peso coin will retain “major elements” of the bill, and will contain features that are “easily distinguishable” from other coins.

Apart from the new coin, the central bank is also set to release an “enhanced” version of the P5 coin to make it “more distinct from other NGC coin series.

It said the changes were based on studies on the design, security features, and specifications of the new coins.

Bangko Sentral to produce cards for PH nat’l IDs

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has announced it will produce the 116 million blank cards to be used by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) for the implementation of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

The BSP said it has signed a memorandum of agreement with the PSA on Monday for the production of the cards.

Under the agreement, the BSP will be supplying the cards for “Phil IDs” that are non-transferable to be issued to all Philippine citizens or resident aliens registered under the PhilSys.

BSP will also provide the necessary equipment and space for the embedding of personal information on to the blank cards to be done by the PSA.

The PSA’s roles under the deal, on the other hand, will include managing the PhilSys database, ensuring the availability, confidentiality, integrity, accuracy and readiness of the data that will be placed in the cards, as well as the undertaking of the personalization, quality checking and the distribution of the national IDs.

Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2018, mandates the establishment of the PhilSys for all Filipinos and foreigners who reside in the country.

The PSA is the law’s primary implementing agency.

The law seeks to harmonize, integrate and interconnect the redundant government-issued IDs by establishing a unified ID system.

The national ID will contain the cardholder’s PhilSys number and full name as well as facial image, sex, date of birth, blood type, and address; biometric information, including fingerprints, iris scan, will also be in the card.

Information on marital status, mobile number and email address will be optional.

The BSP said producing the blank cards for the national IDs will cost the PSA around P3.4 billion or P30 per piece. The central bank also assured that the cards will have optical variable security and other features required by the PSA.

The cards will be provided free to citizens.

The PSA earlier said that by 2022, around 100 million cards will be issued to Filipinos and resident aliens.

House pushes for Electronic Health bills

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 2, 2019

A medical staff member (C) reviews records of patients treated for leptospirosis at a government hospital in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 03 July 2018.  EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

The House of Representatives is pushing for the creation of an electronic health system to strengthen the primary health care system in the country.

House Committee on Health on Monday (September 30) created a technical working group (TWG) that will consolidate several measures seeking to create the country’s electronic health system and services.

According to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, there is a need to address the lack of information and medical record keeping.

“For Filipinos in general, it is not a usual practice to keep such documentation—whether of previous check-ups, diagnostic test results, medication, treatments, and procedures done, among others,” he said.

One of the bills pushed is House Bill 8 which seeks to establish the National Health Passport System and strengthen the primary health care system.

“As stated in HB 8, all Filipino citizens shall be entitled to a Health Passport to be used when a patient avails of medical and dental check-ups or treatment provided in government or private medical institutions,” according to House statement—AAC

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