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  • Writer's pictureBy Lito U. Gagni

Netherlands Queen Vows Financial Inclusion Support

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has welcomed the support of Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), to accelerate the widening of financial inclusion and ensure financial protection among Filipinos by digitizing government payments and keeping financial services affordable.


Aside from Secretary Recto, Queen Máxima met with key public and private sector leaders, including President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Eli Remolona, Jr., and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa to foster partnerships and explore regional cooperation activities during her stay. I Photo: Department of Finance Facebook



“We are extremely grateful to UNSGSA Queen Máxima for her keen interest in advancing financial inclusion in the Philippines and for generously sharing global best practices on how we can onboard more Filipinos into the formal financial system. We eagerly look forward to sharing the good progress we’ve made by the time she comes back to the Philippines,” the Finance Chief said.



During her visit to the DOF on May 23, 2024, UNSGSA Queen Máxima acknowledged the Philippine government’s progress in expanding financial inclusion, noting that 57% of the adult Filipino population now have a bank account––a significant jump from the 17% in 2015 when she first visited the Philippines.


To further increase this, UNSGSA Queen Máxima laid out best practices that the Philippines can adopt to onboard more Filipinos into the formal financial system and provide them with broader access to financial services that are affordable and responsive to their needs.



Specifically related to the work of the DOF, the Queen said it must prioritize digitizing government payments, such as the payment of taxes, and accelerating more investments to improve the speed and bring down the price of connectivity in the country so that financial services are within every Filipino’s reach.


Furthermore, UNSGSA Queen Máxima emphasized the importance of enhancing financial health and resilience against economic and climate-related challenges such as through wider access to insurance products and pension funds.



In response, Secretary Recto said building a strong digital infrastructure to allow more Filipinos to access basic financial services, especially in far-flung areas of the archipelago, is among the top priorities of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.


“We realized that for every 10 percent of Filipinos connected [to the internet] is a corresponding 1-percent increase in GDP,” he stressed.



In his former capacity as Senator, Secretary Recto authored and sponsored the law creating the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the Free Public WiFi Act that provides internet connectivity to most municipalities and cities in the Philippines, including state universities and public hospitals.


The Finance Chief further noted that the government provides competitive incentives to encourage the entry of more telecommunications companies in the Philippines.



The DOF is also leading the charge in digitizing public services both at the national and local government levels to enhance the ease of doing business and bring the government closer to the people.


The DOF also spearheaded the passage of the Ease of Paying Taxes (EOPT) Act, which was signed into law as Republic Act No. (RA) 11976 on January 5, 2024, to modernize the Philippine tax administration and strengthen taxpayer rights.



The law also makes filing and paying taxes for individuals and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) simpler and more convenient through the use of digital technologies.


Moreover, Secretary Recto has directed the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to ramp up their respective digitalization efforts to catch up with the rapid expansion of the e-commerce market.



On UNSGSA Queen Máxima’s call for enhancing financial health and resilience to climate change and natural disasters, Chief-of-Staff and Undersecretary for the Climate Finance Policy Group (CFPG) Maria Luwalhati Dorotan Tiuseco highlighted that the DOF is actively capacitating local government units (LGUs) and providing financing access to support their climate adaptation projects through the People’s Survival Fund (PSF).



The DOF, through the Insurance Commission (IC), has also developed financial resilience tools such as widening access to microinsurance to meet the risk protection needs of those earning below minimum wage.


Insurance Commissioner Reynaldo Regalado reported that the number of Filipinos insured under microinsurance products has reached 58 million to date, and assured UNSGSA Queen Máxima that insurance organizations in the country are more than ready and capable of providing immediate assistance to those in need.



UNSGSA Queen Máxima expressed her optimism about the ongoing programs of the Philippine government towards advancing the foundational building blocks for financial inclusion, as well as her intent to pursue further collaboration in these areas to bring them to fruition.


The meeting was part of UNSGSA Queen Máxima’s three-day mission to the Philippines from May 21 to 23 to promote financial inclusion, especially among underserved communities. She previously visited the Philippines in 2015 also in her capacity as the UNSGSA.



Aside from Secretary Recto, she met with key public and private sector leaders, including President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Eli Remolona, Jr., and Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa to foster partnerships and explore regional cooperation activities during her stay.


UNSGSA Queen Máxima was joined by Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Marielle Geraedts, UN Resident Coordinator H.E. Gustavo Gonzales; World Bank (WB) Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation Senior Director Jean Pesme; Consultative Group to Assist the Poor CEO Sophie Sirtaine; UNSGSA Policy Advisor David Symington; Better than Cash Alliance Asia Lead Preen Saxena; Alliance for Financial Inclusion Head of Project Management Office & Member Engagement Aban Haq; and Private Secretary to Her Majesty Xiaoling Wu.



Joining from the DOF’s side were Undersecretaries Maria Luwalhati Dorotan Tiuseco, Joven Balbosa, and Charlito Mendoza; IC Commissioner Reynaldo Regalado; Deputy Treasurer Eduardo Mariño III, OIC-Assistant Secretary Donalyn Minimo; and OIC-Director IV John Adrian Narag.




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