THE CENTRAL BANK is eyeing two options as it looks to set a standard for QR code payments. — BW FILE PHOTO

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Senior Reporter
THE CENTRAL BANK is looking to set a standard for quick response (QR) code payments by June, with the regulator eyeing two options for the new e-payment platform.
Vicente T. de Villa III, officer-in-charge of the BSP’s Financial Technology Sub-Sector, said industry players are considering the EMVCo and the URL standard for QR codes, which are among the widely used payment structures abroad.
QR codes are computer-generated images which are used for payments or fund transfers. An image, usually a black-and-white square pattern, is scanned via a smartphone camera which will then bring the user to a computer link or online payment portal to complete the transaction.
It is deemed more convenient compared to filling out online forms that require typing account names, numbers and other transaction details, as all these will be embedded in the code.
“First semester, it’s what we have in mind,” Mr. De Villa said in a recent interview when asked how soon the new rules will be out. “We are working directly with the PPMI (Philippine Payments Management, Inc.), because their thrust is to come up with a standard national QR that’s inter-operable not only here in the country, but also [abroad].”
“What needs to be standardized is the information na nandun sa likod na babasahin for the payment instruction. Right now, when you transact online, you have to choose the bank, type the account number, name, and anything about the account you want to send. All of those information will be in that QR.”
BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. revealed plans to standardize the QR code in July last year, with the goal of making the codes readable across banks and merchants.
As regulator, the central bank will mandate players to agree and adopt one QR design to be used by all. Execution and compliance will have to go through the PPMI, an industry-led body expected to police their own ranks.
Currently, non-bank financial firms like PayMaya and GCash are offering QR payments via select stores. Chinese payment gateways like AliPay and WeChat Pay have also made the service available in some establishments in the Philippines through printed codes on signboards placed beside cashiers and check-out counters.
The central bank is actively looking to boost e-commerce and e-payments under the National Retail Payment System, which they see as a big step in getting more Filipinos to go cashless and reducing transaction costs.
The BSP wants digital payments to rise to 20% of total transactions by next year, from a mere 1% share back in 2013.
The Philippines ranked fourth among 55 nations in terms of financial inclusion and the best in Asia alongside India, according to the 2018 Global Microscope of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The central bank is counting on several reform measures to broaden financial access, starting with basic deposit accounts which were formally introduced in February last year. This allows financial firms to offer low-cost bank accounts to customers by simpler opening requirements and few documents, no minimum maintaining balance, and no dormancy charges.