THE life insurance sector is appealing to the Insurance Commission (IC) to allow agents to continue selling online even after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is lifted.

In an e-mail interview, Philippine Life Insurance Association, Inc. (PLIA) President Benedicto C. Sison said it will ask the IC to extend beyond June 30 the authorization for digitally-assisted selling, which was initially adopted to help agents sell during the ECQ.

Mr. Sison said continuing the initiative even after the strict home quarantine protocols are lifted will ensure the safety of the agents if coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lingers with no cure available.

“We certainly hope that this means that in ‘decoupling’ the use of these initiatives from the ECQ, the IC is open to further considering the continued use of these initiatives even post-ECQ… as the other restrictions for safeguarding people against the spread of the virus will remain and continue to create impediments to face-to-face selling,” Mr. Sison said.

The IC in early April allowed both life and non-life insurers to sell their products using information and communications technology (ICT) or other technology enabling remote “face to face” communication.

The directive is set to expire on June 30.

PLIA’s Mr. Sison said IC should extend the period “until a vaccine” is available and the virus “is eliminated,” adding that the regulator could even adopt ICT-enabled sales processes as a permanent option for the industry.

The two-month long ECQ in Metro Manila will transition to a modified ECQ starting May 16. Laguna and Cebu City will undergo the same transition, during which more businesses will be allowed to operate. Meanwhile, the ECQ has been lifted in other parts of the country deemed at less risk of coronavirus infection.

Mr. Sison said IC should also allow insurance firms to conduct agent examinations via ICT or other technology channels as the ban on mass gatherings and strict physical distancing measures are expected to be imposed beyond the quarantine period.

“Distributor recruitment has slowed with the discontinuance of IC agent examinations during the ECQ,” he said.

He said PLIA has been helping the regulator come up with recovery plans for the entire insurance industry.

In the non-life sector, Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (PIRA) Executive Director Michael F. Rellosa has said that its members were asking the IC to relax rules on its capital buildup program to give relief to companies reeling from falling investments and weak sales.

Mr. Rellosa said the insurance regulator should suspend or lower the minimum net worth requirement of P900 million for this year and 2021 after the value of assets held by companies was eroded by market volatility.

In mid-April, the IC conducted a survey to gauge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on insurance firms. Insurers were scheduled to submit their replies by May 8 with results not yet available.

The insurance industry’s premiums rose 2.76% to P224.97 billion at the end of September.

The life insurance sector accounted for P172.05 billion of net premiums written in the period, while the non-life sector generated P44.02 billion. — Beatrice M. Laforga