Bill seeking to amend PH Insurance Code filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021   •   389

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to introduce amendments to the Philippine Insurance Code and place the Insurance Commission (IC) under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been filed at the Senate.

In lodging Senate Bill 2133, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go proposed to amend Presidential Decree No. 1460 or the Insurance Code of 1978 to explicitly include health maintenance organizations (HMO) into the law’s regulatory coverage which shall enable the Insurance Commission (IC) to provide stricter supervision.

Go said this will better protect the industry and the public from unscrupulous practices.

At present, HMOs are covered by the IC but Go said it is still unclear if the provisions of the Insurance Code apply to them.

“Itong finile ko po, kahit nasa ilalim ng Insurance Commission ang HMO, ‘di pa rin po malinaw kung nag-apply sa HMO ang mga provision ng Insurance Code. Mas maganda rin na nasa batas,” the senator said in a statement.

“Ang panukala ay naglalayong isali ang HMO sa Insurance Code para ma-protektahan ang interes ng mga kababayan natin at mahikayat ang competitive market sa health insurance industry,” he added.

According to Go, HMOs will be subjected to the provisions of the Code not explicitly provided for in Executive Order 192. These provisions include the commission’s powers to issue cease-and-desist orders to prevent fraud or injury to the public.

This also aims to enhance competition in the insurance industry and effectively improve insurance services for Filipinos.

Under the proposed amendments, the Insurance Commission will also be put under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which ensures that all financial service providers in the country are regulated by a single regulatory authority. The IC’s powers will also be amended under the proposal.

If passed into law, Go expressed optimism that the measure will benefit Filipinos investing in HMOs as it will provide them the necessary safeguards to ensure that their investments are protected.

BSP issues digital banking license for Overseas Filipino Bank

Robie de Guzman   •   April 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank) has officially become the first branchless digital-only bank in the country’s history after securing a digital banking license from the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

OFBank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), secured a digital banking license last March 25, the DOF said in a statement on Monday.

Prior to that, the bank was able to commence its banking operations in June last year using its then-existing license to operate as a thrift bank.

OFBank, under Executive Order (EO) No. 44 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in September 2017, was created to establish a policy bank dedicated to providing financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos.

“This milestone in the country’s banking history not only fulfills President Duterte’s campaign pledge to create a bank that caters to overseas Filipinos but will also help the Philippines leapfrog to the digital economy,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

“When President Duterte said he would create a bank that would serve overseas-based Filipinos, he wanted a bank that would be a trailblazer in terms of modernizing and expanding the scope of the services it offers to them,” he added.

OFBank was launched virtually in June last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the Philippines’ first branchless and digital-centric government bank, the DOF said.

While fine-tuning its operations, systems, and processes to enable its official transition into a digital bank, OFBank operated as a thrift bank, the DOF said.

In December 2020, the BSP issued Circular No. 1105 containing the guidelines on the establishment of digital banks, clearing the way for OFBank to apply for a license as a digital bank.

OFBank offers four digital products and services that include a digital onboarding system with artificial intelligence (DOBSAI), which allows the real-time opening of a mobile banking deposit account on supported iPhone or Android devices.

Aside from deposit savings accounts, OFBank’s digital services also include fund transfers, bill payments, and applications for multi-purpose loans, the DOF said.

OFBank’s global digital reach spans 112 countries, with its clients able to access online the services of 763 merchants onboarded in its mobile application via the LinkBiz.Portal, it added.

BSP clarifies grace period for loan payments in NCR Plus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The 30-day grace period on loan payments will not be extended as Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite were put under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In a statement, the BSP clarified the 30-day grace period on loan payments was only effective on June 1, 2020, and will not be extended as the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus Bubble goes under ECQ until April 4.

“The Omnibus Guidelines (with Amendments as of March 28, 2021) issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases does not operate to extend the 30-day grace period provided for under Republic Act No. 11469,” the statement reads.

With this, the BSP encourages BSP supervised financial institutions (BSFIs) to continue to provide relief measures to its clients by renewing, restructuring, or extending the terms of the loans based on their continuing assessment of their cash flows.

“The BSP has granted prudential relief measures to BSFIs to enable them to continue to provide financial services and support households and businesses amid the crisis,” the BSP added. AAC


Essential services to continue despite ECQ, BSP says

Robie de Guzman   •   March 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Monday assured it would continue to provide essential services despite the re-enforcement of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and its neighboring provinces to mitigate the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna which are among the ‘NCR Plus’ bubble have been placed under a week-long ECQ. Only essential workers are allowed to travel during this period.

“The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) shall continue to provide essential services amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) declared by the National Government from March 29 to April 4,” it said in a statement.

“The BSP and the banking industry stand ready to ensure the safe and smooth functioning of the banking system,” it added.

The central bank, however, said it would be closed on Thursday and Friday in observance of the Lenten week.

The BSP earlier said it has implemented alternate work arrangements for non-essential workers at its head office in Manila and Security Plant Complex in Quezon City in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.

On the other hand, bank personnel from mission-critical departments and support units will continue to report on-site while strictly observing health protocols mandated by the Department of Health.

It has also shortened work hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The central bank also renewed its push for the use of digital payment as this allows the public to carry out needed financial transactions safely amid the health crisis.


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