THE CENTRAL BANK wants to monitor the cash agents through a registry, which will also provide consumers with a database of these players.

“This agent registry is a tool that can generate information on the number of agents, their location, services, and transactions, among others,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said at a virtual briefing on Thursday.

The registry will help streamline the submission of agent data by financial institutions, provide a tool for agent data analysis, measure the reach of agent services, and give consumers a database of agents with whom they can make transactions.

He said the BSP has tapped a development partner for technical support in coming up with a prototype for the agent registry.

“Cash agents and the agent registry will be powerful tools to support the mutually reinforcing goals of payments digitalization and financial inclusion,” Mr. Diokno said.

The central bank said cash agents help bring financial services to unserved and underserved groups in the countryside.

“What we are trying to pursue is to expand the penetration at the barangay level of these cash agents. It’s important not to look only at the total number, but also to make sure that they are well dispersed,” said Ellen Joyce L. Suficiencia, director of the BSP Center for Learning and Inclusion Advocacy.

The pandemic has also shown the vital role played by cash agents in the country’s financial system, especially for people who do not have access to technology, Mr. Diokno said.

“Those from the vulnerable sector who did not have smartphones, and internet connection continued to rely on physical cash for their transactions. Cash agent service alternative channels for them,” he said.

Cash agents also helped in the distribution of aid under the government’s social protection program during the crisis, he added.

“Without the cash agents, it would be difficult to implement the disbursement of government cash assistance during the pandemic, especially in communities without a bank infrastructure,” he said.

Mr. Diokno said 15 banks included cash agent operations in their services by 2020, up from 11 in 2019.

He added that 58,000 agents are considered active as they operated in the past three months, up by more than three times compared with the 17,000 in 2020. This is also out of the 77,000 registered entities last year.

The BSP wants 70% of Filipino adults to have accounts with financial institutions by 2023. It also targets to have 50% of all payments done online by the same year. — L.W.T. Noble