Senator Win Gatchalian recommended to the Department of Agriculture (DA) the opening of bank accounts for the beneficiaries of the fuel subsidy program to expedite the distribution of cash aid to farmers and fisherfolk and to jumpstart their financial inclusion and access to credit.
The re-electionist senator likened the idea to his proposed Senate Bill No. 2251 or the One Filipino, One Bank Account Act which seeks to mandate government banks to create and maintain a bank account for every unbanked Filipino, free from any opening and maintenance fees or charges. Under Gatchalian’s proposed measure, the said bank accounts may be used for the delivery of the government’s public and social services.
“Sa paglaganap ng serbisyong pinansyal, mahalaga ang mga bagong pamamaraan ng transaksyon sa pananalapi upang matugunan ang kawalan ng access ng mga indibidwal at organisasyon. Kung may access ang maraming Pilipino sa financial products at financial services, mas mapapabuti ang kanilang kalagayan,” said Gatchalian.
“Mapapabilis na ang cash transfer ng ayuda, masisiguro pa na sa tamang kamay mapupunta ang pondo ng gobyerno,” he added.
Gatchalian took note of a World Bank report which cited the need for the Philippine government to tap financial service providers to ramp up digital government-to-person payments and ensure the efficient distribution of cash assistance in times of crisis.
In its report titled “Toward More Accessible and Inclusive Social Assistance Delivery: A Geospatial Analysis in the Philippines,” WB highlighted the lack of digital payments infrastructure for recipients of the social amelioration program (SAP) which contributed to the duplication of beneficiaries and significant delay in payment delivery during the height of the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The low bank ownership and lack of a national ID system also hampered the release of financial assistance, the report said.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey, only 28.6% of the respondents with ages 15 years old and above have a formal account, which includes bank, e-money, cooperative and microfinance institution accounts and only 12.2% of these respondents have bank accounts. The same survey shows that 71% find difficulty in opening an account due to documentary requirements while 58% do not have the requirements for their loan applications in a formal financial institution.
The first tranche of the P500-million fuel subsidy for the beneficiaries in the agricultural sector is expected to be released in March and the second tranche in April.