THE central bank is waiving fees for financial institutions seeking to establish new digital channels such as online banking facilities and electronic money platforms, amid lockdown measures aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the Monetary Board approved the “suspension of charging of filing, processing, and licensing/registration fees relative to application to provide electronic payment and financial services (EPFS),” as part of relief measures for financial institutions.

The relief measure will take effect for six months, starting March 8, 2020 when the President declared a state of public health emergency under Presidential Proclamation No. 922.

The BSP said the six-month period may be extended depending on developments of the coronavirus outbreak. Luzon is currently under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), although some provinces will be placed under a general community quarantine

In a separate statement, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno cited the “importance of shifting consumer behavior toward e-payments, considering the limitations on people’s movement and activities during the ECQ.”

“The waiver of fees related to grant of EPFS licenses aims to encourage BSFIs to provide safe, efficient and reliable digital channels that support critical payment use cases such as social benefit transfers, payments to merchants or billers including to the government, payments to suppliers, and remittances,” BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier said in a memorandum dated April 27.

Processing fees for EPFS is currently at P10,000 for rural banks, P20,000 for thrift banks, and 50,000 for universal and commercial banks.

For nonbanks including electronic money issuers (EMIs) and other financial institutions (FIs), fees could range between P10,000 to P20,000.

On the other hand, licensing fees for banks is set at P10,000 for rural banks, P20,000 for thrift banks, and P100,000 for big lenders.

Licensing fees for EMIs is currently at P60,000 while those for other FIs is at P25,000.

Meanwhile, filing and registration fees for new EMIs are at P1,000 and P100,000, respectively.

This measure came after other regulatory relief initiatives from the BSP, including the suspension of PESONet and InstaPay fees during the ECQ period.

The central bank has also temporarily waived transaction fees for the Philippine Payment and Settlement System where high value interbank payment transactions are processed through accounts maintained with the BSP.

“The same unified action is strongly encouraged to be extended for the fees charged by BSFIs for other fund transfer services and interbank ATM (automated teller machine transactions,” Ms. Fonacier said. “(BSFIs) are therefore urged to channel forward such temporary relief measures to the banking public.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the Bankers Association of the Philippines said they will continue to “provide unhampered banking services and ensure the industry’s resiliency” given the extended ECQ.

“Further to this, the banks have enhanced their operations to adapt to this new normal,” the BAP said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble