The Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) underlines the importance of financial accessibility as the theme for its 58th Charter Anniversary Symposium held on
November 9-10 at the Manila Marriott Hotel, Pasay City.
Rural bankers from around the country gathered in the two-day event to discuss topics revolving around the present banking system and on ways that will further enhance services provided to communities.
“We chose this year’s theme to highlight the desire of the entire rural banking industry to achieve a stable, sound, and market-based financial system that supports effective mobilization and allocation of resources, particularly in the countryside,” said RBAP president Enrique Abellana in his speech.
Taking into account the challenges that the industry faces, topics for this year’s symposium focused on in-depth explanations of policy reforms, such as sound credit risk management and consumer protection and awareness. Also discussed were financial literacy and understanding of the El Niño phenomenon.
On the first day, the pool of speakers included experts from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the World Bank, and the state-run weather bureau Pagasa.
The association also welcomed Smart Communications Inc. Chairman Manny Pangilinan, as Smart’s subsidiary Voyager Innovations Inc., forged a partnership with RBAP and introduced a single, digitized platform that aims to improve banking services in the rural areas.
“The digitization of banking transactions will promote transparency, speed, and efficiency,” Pangilinan said in his speech.
Meanwhile, Nataliya Mylenko, country sector coordinator from the World Bank, stressed that sufficient public awareness on financial services has a large impact on financial behavior.
Mylenko concluded that “those who budget their finances and have a better understanding of financial concepts are more likely to save.”
In line with this, Dr. Johnny Noe Ravalo, assistant governor at BSP, discussed consumer protection and the Filipino adults’ savings behavior.
He pointed to BSP data that showed 97 percent of Filipino adults acknowledge how important it is to plan a budget and save and yet, only 40 percent of them actually save. Further, of those who save, 70 percent keep their savings at home.
Dr. Ravalo encouraged rural banks to look at the figures and see it as an opportunity. He added that rural banks, as community stakeholders and active shareholders that know the community well, should not only live in it but also help it grow.
The symposium—one of RBAP’s major events, the other being the annual convention—was attended by almost 400 rural bankers.