THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it has set a target of a “scam-free financial environment” following a surge in unlicensed investment solicitations during the pandemic.

“We recognize the importance and continue to strive for a scam-free financial environment, which will only be possible if we work together with the public in exposing and avoiding fraudulent schemes,” SEC Chairman Emilio B. Aquino said in a statement Wednesday.

The regulator has issued 87 advisories against entities offering unlicensed investment programs to the public this year. The SEC issued 126 advisories in 2020, more than double the 50 advisories in 2019.

Four cease-and-desist orders were also issued by the commission against 15 groups and individuals over their unregistered investment programs. It tallied 48 pending court cases for violations of the Securities Regulation Code.

“So far, a total of 187 individuals have been charged with violations of the SRC, with the SEC securing 17 judgments of conviction against 19 individuals meted with a total of imprisonment of 572 years and a total fine of P25 million imposed by various courts,” the regulator said.

The commission is celebrating World Investor Week, a global campaign organized by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). This year’s observance started Monday and will run until Oct. 10. The IOSCO program will highlight sustainable finance and efforts to curb investment fraud.

A bell-ringing ceremony for World Investor Week was held at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) Wednesday.  

In a separate statement, the PSE said it is also participating in a World Federation of Exchanges initiative to promote financial literacy, in support of the IOSCO program.

“All the financial literacy programs we do in PSE are our contributions to help make financial inclusion a reality. We want more Filipinos to reap the rewards of their hard work through investing,” PSE President and Chief Executive Offer Ramon S. Monzon said in a statement.

The SEC will also be hosting its own Investor Protection Week in November. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte