The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recently conducted a series of regional consultations with public, private and international stakeholders on the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI).
In his opening speech for the Luzon regional consultation, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said it is fitting that people should also be able to identify, gain and prosper from opportunities the development brings, especially with the country’s economic growth that is regarded as among the fastest in Asia.
He added, “We want our people to save invest, and know personal finance management to be financially secure and independent. We want our people to be part of the financial mainstream where they can access bank loans that will help them grow their own business. We want our people to have options other than informal lenders with prohibitive rates and onerous conditions. And we want our people to be able to protect themselves against scams and to know their rights as financial consumers.”
This is a favorable call for rural banks since they are fundamentally designed to cater to the economic needs of communities in the countryside that receive little penetration from financial service providers.
With a strategic framework guiding all banks and sectors, people from marginalized areas and those with low income will hopefully achieve financial inclusion, make sound investment decisions and participate in productive activities.
Rural banks, for their part, have embraced various developments in banking landscape to further serve in the grassroots. These include adapting to technology advancement and to regulatory frameworks.
Enabled by central bank’s circulars, they can now offer a wider array of financial products, then confined to universal and commercial banks, to the people in countryside—trimming down the number of people classified as “unbanked” and “underbanked.”
Further, in terms of technological innovations, rural banks adopt mobile banking and other electronic banking services.
Data from central bank showed that a number of rural and microfinance banks with ATMs increased to 479 by December 2014 from 355 in March of the same year. In addition, out of the 121 BSP-regulated banks that have electronic banking facilities, 54 were rural and microfinance banks.
With rural banks and all other sectors gearing toward a fully realized financial inclusion, positively, a fulfilled Philippine Development Plan commitment is underway.