THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) will start its pilot circulation of polymer banknotes next year, beginning with limited P1,000 bills to be delivered by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said the central bank partnered with the RBA for the pilot testing. A subsidiary of Australia’s central bank will deliver the first set of P1,000 polymer bills in April 2022.

“The 1,000 [polymer] notes will begin circulating in mid-2022. We have reached an agreement with RBA and its wholly owned subsidiary, Note Printing Australia [Ltd.], for the production of the polymer banknotes,” Mr. Diokno said at an online briefing on Thursday.

The new banknotes will co-exist with bills already being circulated, he said.

BSP Deputy Governor Mamerto E. Tangonan said the BSP is authorized to issue 500 million pieces of P1,000 polymer bills from 2022 to 2025.

With the initial limited circulation, the BSP will look into the lifespan of these polymer bills to see if they last longer than paper banknotes, he said.

“They (polymer bills) do last anywhere from two and a half [years], some central banks even reported 4.8. [years],” Mr. Tangonan said at the same briefing.

“We want to see if under local Philippine conditions, if the banknotes would last at least as long [as what was seen by other central banks],” he added.

Mr. Diokno said there are about 57 countries that have used polymer for their banknotes as of March 2021, incuding Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Fiji.

“Based on our research, among the most cited strengths of polymer banknotes are their being relatively more hygienic, difficult to counterfeit, durable and cost-effective, and environmentally friendly,” the central bank chief said.

Mr. Tangonan said they will also see if it is cost-effective to increase its circulation of polymer bills.

“Although it (polymer bills) costs a little bit more to print one banknote, but if you’re going to print much less…then that would give you a very strong justification to polymerize all denominations,” Mr. Tangonan said.

The central bank’s move towards using polymer for banknotes is expected to impact the country’s abaca industry, as the fiber is used in making paper bills.

The BSP earlier said its limited testing could displace around 0.1% or 0.2% of total abaca exports, representing about 210 to 481 jobs.

The central bank has said it will coordinate with relevant government agencies and industry representatives to address concerns over the livelihood of abaca farmers that will be affected by the move. — L.W.T. Noble