In a groundbreaking move, CARD Bank, Inc. a microfinance-oriented rural bank under CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), opened the Philippine’s first licensed Islamic bank in Cotabato City on January 22, 2024. This event is an important milestone in providing inclusive financial services to the local Muslim community.
As of September 23, 2023, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reveals that a significant section of unbanked communities comes from Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The establishment of this Islamic branch aims to serve the unbanked and underbanked population to strengthen the economy of the Muslim-dominated region while providing ethical Shariah-compliant financial services.
Key officers from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, BARMM Government, Bangsamoro Board of Investments (BBOI), and local government officials, who attended the grand opening, expressed their full support for CARD Bank’s commitment to diversify its services and meet the financial needs of the entire community.
According to Mohamad Omar Pasigan, Chairman of the Bangsamoro Board of Investment, “This day marks a significant milestone in the banking sector across the Philippines. BARMM takes pride in the opening of the first-ever Islamic Bank in the country. After extensive deliberations and numerous series of meetings, we have turned this vision into reality. I hope this is just the beginning, and we will continue to expand to other Islamic cities.”
In addition, Atty. Normina Datadacula, the Manager of Islamic Banking Supervisory Group of BSP said, “Today’s event truly marks another milestone in the country’s commitment to developing the Islamic finance ecosystem. Since the enactment of the Islamic Banking Law, the BSP has laid down the regulatory reforms to promote the growth of Islamic Banking in the Philippines, and CARD Bank has responded to the demands of times. As you begin your Islamic banking journey, rest assured that the BSP will be your steadfast partner, continuously issuing and enabling regulation to expand Islamic banking and finance in the country. May this opening ceremony be an impetus of more great things to come.”
Islamic banking and finance are inclusive, offering much-needed financial products and services to help Muslim communities start and expand their enterprises and livelihoods. This move by CARD Bank is anticipated to inspire other financial institutions to explore providing diverse financial options to Muslim communities.
Islamic Banking for Financial Inclusion
The new Islamic branch strictly adheres to Shariah-compliant banking principles, offering a wide range of financial products and services aligned with Islamic finance principles. This includes Wadiah Deposits accounts such as Wadiah Basic Savings, Wadiah Regular Savings, and Wadiah ATM Savings, Term Investment Deposit under “Mudharabah”, Micro-Agri Financing and Micro-Enterprise Financing under “Murabahah” or “Musharakah” contract, Supplemental Commodity Financing under “Murabahah 2”, all in compliance with Islamic finance law.
According to CARD Bank President and CEO Ms. Marivic M. Austria, “CARD Bank’s strategic move to open an Islamic banking branch aims to provide the Muslim community in Cotabato City and BARMM with accessible and culturally sensitive financial solutions. This initiative aligns with the goal of promoting financial inclusion and creating opportunities for economic empowerment of all people, irrespective of their faith and belief.”
Collaboration with Islamic Financial Experts
To ensure the seamless integration of Islamic banking practices, CARD Bank collaborated with experienced Islamic financial consultants. Its staff and key officers underwent training in Indonesia to understand and implement the correct principles of Islamic banking and financing.
This collaboration with Islamic law experts ensures that CARD Bank’s delivery of high-quality financial products and services is responsive to the needs of Muslim communities and at the same time, respectful of their culture and beliefs.
Islamic Branch and Technology
The Islamic branch of CARD Bank is located in Sinsuat Avenue, Rosary Heights VI9600, Cotabato City. The bank’s design is culturally sensitive, with an Islamic prayer room that clients may conveniently use for contemplation and worship. It is also equipped with the latest technologies to provide an efficient banking experience. Clients can expect digital banking services, including the mobile banking application konek2CARD, which enables them to manage accounts and conduct transactions easily using their Android mobile phones.
Community Impact and Economic Growth
More than 1,000 clients from CARD, Inc. (A Microfinance NGO)’s Paglambo Project, a Shariah-inspired microfinancing program, are transitioning to the CARD Bank Islamic Branch’s banking products and services.
The opening of this Islamic Branch is expected to stimulate the local economy. As explained by CARD MRI Managing Director Mr. Aristeo A. Dequito, “By providing financial services tailored to the needs of the Muslim community, we aim to contribute to the overall development of Cotabato City and the Bangsamoro region.”
The community has warmly accepted the new Islamic branch of CARD Bank in their area. Parida Blah, a CARD client for 11 years, remarked: “We express our gratitude to Allah for providing us with the wonderful opportunity to have CARD Bank in Cotabato City. We take great pride in the fact that we now have this institution. At present, we are confident that the funds being utilized are halal. I am proud to be associated with CARD, as it has enabled me to build my own house and start my own sewing business.”
The opening of CARD Bank’s first Islamic Branch extends equal opportunities for all to improve their lives through much-needed financial services.
According to CARD MRI Founder and Chair Emeritus and CARD Bank Chairperson Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, “The opening of this Islamic Branch reflects the commitment of the entire organization to promoting financial inclusion, strengthening MSMEs, and ultimately ending poverty in the country.”
CARD Bank’s first Islamic branch marks a significant step towards promoting financial inclusion and cultural sensitivity in the banking sector. The bank looks forward to serving more Muslim communities and contributing to the region’s economic upliftment. “This opening is just the beginning. We will continue to expand to reach more Muslim communities in the country, ensuring that everyone has access to equal opportunities for progress,” said Dr. Alip.
Aside from the Islamic Branch, CARD Bank is also expected to open Branch-lite Units (BLUs) following Islamic principles to provide banking services to the neighboring towns of Cotabato City.