INDUSTRY PLAYERS and consumers will have access to more digital payments initiatives by the end of this year and into 2022.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is collaborating closely with the Philippine Payments Management, Inc. (PPMI), a BSP-accredited payment system management body in the Philippines, to roll out more services related to QR Ph and the PESONet.

The central bank in a statement said the person-to-merchant QR Ph scheme will have its full launch in the coming days.

“I am confident that this initiative will facilitate efficient digital payments to unbanked micro-entrepreneurs such as sari-sari store owners and tricycle drivers,” said BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno during a recent PPMI meeting.

The scheme was pilot-launched in April and included select merchants that use InstaPay, the retail electronic fund transfer system that facilitates transactions below P50,000. This also allows consumers with accounts in select banks to perform the person-to-merchant QR payments.

“The BSP will continue to work with the [PPMI] to ensure that every Filipino can have meaningful participation in an increasingly digital Philippine economy,” Mr. Diokno said.

Meanwhile, the BSP and PPMI are also working together to allow multiple batch settlement through PESONet by the end of this year.

“From once a day, multiple batch settlement will increase the frequency of PESONet settlements to two times a day. This will speed up the payment process for high-value transfers and support funding requirements for businesses,” the BSP said.

The PESONet is the electronic fund transfer service handling transactions worth more than P50,000 under the central bank’s National Retail Payment System. The transfers are credited to the receiver by the end of  a banking day, making it suitable for business-to-business dealings and an alternative to the paper-based check system.

Other digitalization initiatives including an interoperable bills payment facility and the request-to-pay facility are expected to be launched early next year and by the second quarter of 2022, respectively, the BSP said.

The interoperable bills payment facility will potentially allow billers to collect from their clients online. This will be possible even if the payment service providers of the billers are different from those of the customers.

Meanwhile, the request to pay facility will enable payment collection by simply sending a request-to-pay to the person who needs to settle their due.

Another initiative currently being developed is the direct debit service, which will enable the payer to send the payee an electronic authority to draw funds directly from the payer’s account on a regular basis. Once operational, the initiative will be ideal for recurring payments such as monthly rentals, periodic loan amortizations, and quarterly insurance premiums, the BSP said.

Also, in a bid to boost digitalization, the PPMI is pushing for more banks and e-money issuers to onboard to the EGov Pay ecosystem, an e-payment facility for taxes, permits, fees and other government obligations.

The central bank hopes to make 50% of payments, both in volume and in value, will be done online by 2023.

Data from the BSP and the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance showed digital payments made up 14% of monthly transactions in 2019, up from 10% in 2018.

The central bank is optimistic digital payments will continue to rise amid the physical distancing measures during the pandemic.

“These challenging times have taught us to adapt, be more agile and to find innovative ways to continue thriving. In a way, the pandemic gave us an invaluable opportunity — and one that we must seize — to build and enhance our capacities for digital transformation,” Mr. Diokno said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble