THE GOVERNMENT’S initiatives geared towards digitalization of payment transactions will foster opportunities for “coopetition,” according to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Executive Vice-President and Chief Innovation and Inclusion Officer Angelito “Lito” M. Villanueva.

Mr. Villanueva said the recent initiatives spearheaded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), such as the EGovPay Facility and QR PH will benefit not only consumers but service providers as well.

“The good thing here is that what we call the “coopetition” — cooperation and competition — amongst players in this industry to really work together towards achieving that particular goal because no single entity or company would be able to address those gaps,” Mr. Villanueva told BusinessWorld in an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the EGovPay facility and QR PH held at the BSP last week.

The EGov Pay Facility, which had its pilot run in August that initially offered online tax payments for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, has on-boarded more government agencies. This includes allowing digital payments for the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine National Police, and the city governments of General Santos, Manila, Valenzuela, San Pedro, Laguna, Baler, and Quezon City.

Vicente T. de Villa III, managing director at the BSP’s Financial Technology Sub-Sector, said the central bank is eyeing to include more agencies in the facility.

“We would like to have other government agencies to be included. Perhaps, LTO (Land Transportation Office), DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), and all those other agencies that have frontline licensing and front line payments made by the public,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Financial Inclusion Forum for the labor sector held at BSP last week.

Meanwhile, QR PH’s maiden launch will have six pilot payment providers including Asia United Bank Corp., China Banking Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, PayMaya, UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc., and RCBC.

These digital initiatives will not only help consumers but also financial players themselves that will be developing these facilities, Mr. Villanueva said.

“This is not just about the convenience that we do that consumers will experience. But in fact, it also relates to us, to the operators and the players themselves, who will definitely be benefiting from this because of operational efficiency and cost reduction,” Mr. Villanueva said.

The BSP has required payment service providers to adopt the Europay, Mastercard, Visa or EMV QR code as a national standard by June 2020.

Amid these digitalization initiatives, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said they are targeting a higher share of digital payments in total transactions in the country by 2020.

“The original goal is 20% by 2020, the new goal is 30% by 2020,” he told reporters at the briefing before the launch of the EGov Pay Facility and QR PH.

Mr. Diokno noted that with the introduction of these new digital initiatives, he is positive that the Philippines will be a cash-lite economy by 2023 or when his term ends.

“Not cashless, but cash-lite… Right now we are cash heavy. I think cashless society will be in a matter of 10 years and not within the next five years,” he said.

Meanwhile, aside from being part of the pilot payment providers participating in the QR PH, Mr. Villanueva also shared other digital initiatives that RCBC is embarking on.

“There’s an ongoing integration with [CIS] Bayad Center, [Inc.], so we hope to launch the partnership or meeting the actual line for implementation by the first quarter next year,” Mr. Villanueva said.

RCBC’s partnership with Bayad Center will hook up the bank’s digital basic account, lending and Malayan’s insurance products into the mobile app of Bayad Center. The tie-up will also launch the Bankard-Bayad Center utility credit card which is the first of its kind that can be used for enrolment and automatic payment of customer’s monthly bills.

Mr. Villanueva added that RCBC’s mobile app has some of the “many firsts” features of mobile banking in the country, including a facility for foreign exchange — for buying and selling ten currencies — and an online time deposit placement of up to P10 million or $200,000.

The Yuchengo-led bank booked a 41% surge in its net earnings to P4.5 billion as of end-September, compared to the P3.2 billion seen in the same period in 2018.

The bank’s shares closed at P24.80 apiece on Tuesday, down by 0.20% or five centavos from the previous day’s finish. — Luz Wendy T. Noble