LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said that public's access to financial services has improved over the years indicating that the country's financial system has become more inclusive.
Data from the BSP showed yesterday that there has been a sustained expansion in the network of banks, ATMs and other financial service providers (FSPs) in the country amid efforts to promote financial inclusion.
The central bank said that the number of banks' offices in the country increased 19 percent to 9,015 last year from 7,585 in 2001, while ATM network accelerated by 175 percent to 10,658 in 2011 from 3,882 a decade ago.
The counts on the number of banks and ATMs exclude offshore branches of Philippine banks.
In addition to banks and ATMs, the BSP said there are over 26,000 alternative access points such as pawnshops, money changers, foreign exchange dealers, remittance agents and mobile banking agents.
"Financial inclusion, or the provision of access to financial services for all, has received growing recognition as a key ingredient for inclusive growth," the central bank said.
While there is a general increase in the number of access points, the BSP also noted there are also regional disparities that show concentration in highly populous and urbanized regions such as Metro Manila, CALABARZON and Central Luzon.
"Access to finance leaves much room for improvement in regions like MIMAROPA, Zamboanga Peninsula, Eastern Visayas, CAR and ARMM. It is worth noting, however, that significant growth has been observed in some regions with low banking presence," the BSP said.
For instance, the BSP said Zamboanga Peninsula is one of the regions that experienced the highest increase in the number of banks at 11 percent from 2009 to 2011 while MIMAROPA achieved the fastest growth of 48 percent in the number of ATM outlets.
"This is a positive indicator of increased access to areas that are underserved," the BSP said.
"One of the seen opportunities for financial inclusion is the presence of alternative FSPs. With the presence of these alternative FSPs, the number of unserved municipalities will drop from 609 out of 1,634 municipalities," it added.
This covers 15.2 percent of the population to 372 municipalities covering 7.6 percent of the population.
According to a demand study on domestic payments in the Philippines, 95 percent of the 55 percent of the total population are classified as either poor or very poor, already use these access points for various transactions such as payments and remittances.
With the BSP's enabling policy environment together with technology-driven innovations, these alternative FSPs can become effective channels to access financial services.
"The Philippines has gained recognition as one of the world's strongest enabling environments for microfinance and is taking a leadership role in global discussions on promoting financial inclusion. The BSP is now benchmarking its progress to see if indeed the deliberate efforts toward financial inclusion are bringing financial services to the unbanked and underbanked who need these the most," the central bank said.