BSP to continue digital payments push

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) will continue to encourage a shift to digital payments this year following the surge in electronic transactions seen in 2020 amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said payments from persons to merchants will be available under QR PH this year, which the central bank expects to further boost e-payments.

“This initiative will benefit not only large businesses but also the small unbanked vendors such as tricycle drivers, market vendors, and sari-sari store owners,” Mr. Diokno said, noting this will be an alternative to coin payments as it caters to low-value, high-volume transactions.

QR PH was launched in late 2019. The volume of person-to-person transactions in QR PH surged 5,678% a year after its launch and by 15,687% in terms of value, BSP data showed.

On the other hand, coin demand in 2020 slumped 57% in volume and 60% in value from a year earlier.

“We are on track for the use of QR PH persons to merchants by April this year. This will be followed by a full launch set in July wherein all key payment service providers are expected to be boarded,” Mr. Diokno said.

“While softer economic activity may have partly led to the drop [in demand for coins], broadening access to safe and convenient e-payment options may have also contributed to the decline in coin demand,” the central bank added.

Meanwhile, BSP Acting Deputy Director for Payment Systems Oversight Department Bridget Rose M. Mesina-Romero said they also target to enable multiple settlements under PESONet by the early part of next quarter.

PESONet is an electronic fund transfer service under the National Retail Payment System of the central bank that facilitates batch fund transfers for amounts beyond P50,000. The service allows fund transfers to be credited to the receiver by the end of the banking date.

Mr. Diokno said the combined value of transactions channeled through PESONet and InstaPay, its retail counterpart, surged 225% to P543 billion in December from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the volume of transactions increased 445% to 36 million.

The central bank wants 50% of payments both in terms of value and volume done digitally by 2023.

Mr. Diokno has also said the country could become a coin-less society by 2025.

“The BSP expects the transition to gather pace amid the rise in electronic payments during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Diokno said.

A report by the Better than Cash Alliance showed online payments increased to make up 10% of the total volume as of 2018 from just 1% in 2013. By value, it also increased to comprise 20% of the total in 2018 from 8% in 2013. — L.W.T. Noble

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