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Promoting investments, savings, financial inclusion

February 28, 2023 Dennis F. Fetalino 339 views

History is useful, but it can only tell us so much, particularly in situations without historical precedent, — Philip Jefferson, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors,

Investment promotion is not an exclusive function of designated government agencies.

Capital formation can be a public-private partnership.

For instance, consider the collaboration of a top international financial institution and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Philippines president and CEO Sandeep Uppal and other top executives paid a courtesy visit to Trade and Industry Sec. Alfredo Pascual to discuss possible areas of collaboration and other opportunities that the department and HSBC can explore in line with the recently signed memorandum of understanding between the Board of Investments and HSBC.

Pascual is also chairman of the BoI, the lead government investment-promotion agency.

“The MoU between BoI and HSBC Philippines will serve as an instrument to facilitate collaboration in terms of investment promotion. We are very grateful for this partnership because it will also enable the conduct of investment seminars and business matching activities that will be helpful to our local businesses,” Pascual said.

Signed by Uppal and BoI managing head and Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo in December 2022, the MoU endeavors collaborations in the form of conduct of investment seminars or missions and business matching activities; joint assistance to foster economic and industrial linkages between investors and corporations; and setting up of a special working team, as may be necessary, to undertake the areas of cooperation.

“Through this partnership, the DTI may leverage on the vast network and clientele of HSBC, particularly multinational companies who are seeking to expand in Southeast Asia. This will further expand opportunities for the Philippines and will help us gather more investments that will, in turn, generate more stable, high quality, and better-paying jobs for Filipinos,” the DTI chief added.

During the courtesy visit, Uppal highlighted what the bank can do for the country and what value it can further bring in the future by working with DTI.

“It has always been HSBC Philippines commitment to support the country’s agenda on nation building and economic progress. We are indeed delighted to be in partnership with the DTI and through HSBC’s international network, we hope to bridge the Philippines to growth opportunities across the globe and vice versa,” he said.

Pascual expressed optimism that the MoU and the established strategic partnership between BoI and HSBC would further accelerate and intensify the government’s investment-promotion activities and post-pandemic economic recovery initiatives.

The bank also indicated openness to collaborations, which may include sponsoring investment fora or roundtable meetings as well as networking dinners.

HSBC Philippines’ parent company is the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd. headquartered in London and has been operating in the Philippines for 148 years.

It is one of the leading full-service international banks in the country serving customers through three global businesses — wholesale banking, global banking and markets, and wealth and personal banking.

The bank has a network of branches strategically located in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao, and a Global Service Centre servicing local and international HSBC markets.

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Savings generation is no longer an exclusive function of banks.

Both government and private non-bank financial institutions have assumed ‘savings deposit-taking’ roles traditionally reserved for banks.

For instance, Pag-IBIG Fund members collectively saved nearly P80 billion in 2022, setting yet another record for the highest amount saved by members with the agency in a single year, its top officials said.

Last year, the amount collectively saved by Pag-IBIG members totaled P79.9 billion — the highest in the agency’s 42-year history.

The total savings collected last year increased by 25 percent or P16.2 billion from the P63.7 billion collected in 2021.

Forming part of the total savings is the agency’s Pag-IBIG Regular Savings, which also increased by six percent from P37.71 billion in 2021 to P40.06 billion in 2022.

“The sustained growth in Pag-IBIG members’ savings collections has been truly remarkable. It denotes our members’ trust and confidence in our programs, and our capacity to manage each hard-earned peso they have saved with us,” Human Settlements and Urban Development Sec. Jose Rizalino Acuzar, also chairman of the 11-member Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees, said.

“And, as our collections remain strong, we remain able to finance and maintain the low interest rates of our loan programs. These are among our many efforts in adhering to the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. towards advancing the welfare of our fellow Filipinos,” Acuzar said.

Pag-IBIG Fund chief executive officer Marilene Acosta said the agency’s popular MP2 Savings continues to drive the growth of its members’ savings.

The voluntary savings program maintained its growth in 2022, as members saved a record-high P39.84 billion in the program, an increase of 53 percent, or P13.89 billion from the P25.95 billion collected in 2021.

“We are happy that we continue to gain the trust of our members, as shown by the record-high amounts that they have saved with us in 2022, as well as in the past years. This shows their growing appreciation of the value in saving with Pag-IBIG Fund. That is why we remain committed to prudently managing their savings, so that we can provide them the best possible returns,” Acosta said.

Meanwhile, a pawnshop and money service entity pioneered the provision of “micro-savings” accounts among its clients.

Cebuana Lhuillier’s financial services business grew as its clientele base expanded, prompting it to spin off a banking unit.

Cebuana Bank, the banking arm of Cebuana Lhuillier, reported that it has accumulated close to seven million micro savings account holders to date since its launch in 2019.

Cebuana Lhuillier president and chief executive officer Jean Henri Lhuillier said its micro savings bank has been in the forefront of bringing easy, accessible, reliable banking to a majority of Filipinos.

“Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings empowered millions of Filipinos to embark on their very own financial journeys by giving them a reliable, accessible, and efficient way to save their money, which they can easily withdraw during times of need. The quick adaptation of our kababayans to micro savings proved that the healthy mindset towards saving has always been there, as long as they are equipped with the right tools,” said Lhuillier.

Cebuana Lhuillier Micro Savings—which allows customers to open an account in any of over 3,000 Cebuana Lhuillier branches nationwide for as low as only P50—was introduced as a means to address the barriers to saving, including lack of accessibility, high maintaining balance, and the need for numerous documentary requirements to open an account.

CLB won the Rural/Cooperative Bank of the Year – Philippines at the 2022 Asian Banking and Finance Retail Banking Awards for its impressive initiatives and innovative financial products and services offered during the pandemic.

It was also awarded the Rural/Cooperative Bank of the Year in the 2021 ABF Retail Banking Awards and was also recognized by the Bangko Sentral as one of Philippine banking’s notable players, naming it an Outstanding BSP Stakeholder in 2021 and further recognizing it as one of its notable resources in the agency’s Financial Inclusion Steering committee.

Aside from Cebuana Lhuillier branches, micro savings accountholders can also withdraw cash anytime, anywhere in over 21,000+ BancNet ATMs nationwide, purchase online thru UnionPay merchants worldwide, enjoy 24/7 unlimited banking access with the eCebuana app, and make cashless payments in over 350,000 UnionPay and BancNet accredited stores nationwide.

Bangko Sentral Gov. Felipe M. Medalla said the banking system is strong, stable, resilient, and responsive to the evolving needs of the growing Philippine economy.

“Our banking system sustained its solid footing as shown in the continued growth in its assets, deposits, and profits, as well as ample capital, liquidity buffers, and loan loss reserves,” Medalla said.

He also stressed the BSP’s steadfast commitment to championing financial inclusion and digitalization to build a technologically advanced, environmentally responsible, and financially inclusive economy.

The BSP chief made the remarks during the annual BSP reception for bankers themed “A Future-Ready Philippines: Digital, Sustainable, Inclusive,” held last February 24 at the BSP’s head office in Manila and attended by other top monetary officials, leaders of the banking community, government executives, diplomats, and journalists.

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PBBM’s unity call and ME division

As the nation commemorated the 37th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Saturday, President Marcos urged the people to seek “peace, unity, and reconciliation”.

The President made the call for a solemn and meaningful commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

“As we look back at this fateful moment in our country’s history, we remind ourselves that despite the polarizing and divisive nature of our politics, it is our capacity for peace, unity, and reconciliation that made us great and worthy of global acclaim as a people,” Marcos said.

He noted that as the country aspires to move forward, everyone must remain composed and take appropriate actions toward settling differences and identifying collaborative ways.

“By accepting our diversity, we deepen our interpersonal relationships and discover how to make things work better for all,” he said.

If we truly stand for democracy, let us face the future by making our sense of community and patriotism the defining cornerstones of our society and the overarching goals of all our efforts in nation-building,” he said.

Some sectors, however, seem unable to shake off the old and bad habit of sowing disunity or fragmentation of communities and society as whole.

The practice of mechanical engineering is regulated in the country by the Professional Regulation Commision through its Board of Mechanical Engineering.

MEs have a professional organization called the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers established in 1952. The PSME is mandated to promote the professional growth of ME practitioners.

But a break-away group has formed a new umbrella organization, causing a deep divide in the ranks of ME professionals.

The sorry state of affairs besetting the ME profession reportedly prompted the PRC to remove the PSME from its list of Accredited Integrated Professional Organizations.

Each legitimate professional organization is given the AIPO seal.

Ironically, the PSME was the first professional organization to be accredited by the PRC through Certificate of Accreditation AIPO-004.

The breakaway group now seems to be the fair-haired boy of the BME since the group’s requests and representations are said to be acted upon with uncommon dispatch while other MEs have pending requests which have gathered dust since 2018.

Are the chairman and members of the BME sleeping on the job, neglecting their mandate to regulate the profession, elevate standards and unify practitioners?

Some officials reportedly even have pending cases before the Office of the Ombudsman (Case Reference IC-OC-22-0326) and complaints filed directly with the Office of the President via the 8888 Citizen Complaint Hotline.

These raise doubts on their credibility and ability to execute their functions and serve their colleagues. In such a case, decency dictates that they vacate their seats.

For sure, the profession is teeming with other, competent, morally upright, and, therefore, more qualified and deserving practitioners who could unify the ME community, raise professional standards, and restore public confidence in the Board and the ME profession.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause, ponder, pray, and proceed, people.

AUTHOR PROFILE