Diokno confident Medalla to sustain game-changing reforms in BSP

Former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor and now Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno (left) formally hands over the leadership of the BSP to Governor Felipe M. Medalla during a ceremony held today at the BSP head office in Manila.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Monday (July 4) he is confident that new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Felipe Medalla will continue the game-changing reforms he has implemented under his previous leadership of the institution, which include its rapid shift to digitalization and other measures that has kept it ‘agile and innovative’ amid the pandemic-induced crisis and other challenges to the country’s financial system.

In his first speech as Finance Secretary at the BSP’s 29th anniversary and turnover ceremony, Diokno recounted the time of uncertainties at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when he was BSP governor, and how the institution provided “a sense of confidence and predictability” during this period.

Diokno said that through these trying times, the BSP ensured the continuity of much-needed financial services and remained sensitive to the needs of its fellow Filipinos by providing financial relief, incentivizing lending, and facilitating access to more financial services.

He pointed out that even in the midst of a pandemic, “it has remained business as usual” for banks, money changers, and other BSP-supervised institutions.

“We have gone through a crisis like no other, with no emergency response playbook to which we could refer. But we kept our eyes on the ball. We remained agile and innovative. We boosted market confidence. We implemented extraordinary liquidity measures,” Diokno said during the event.

The BSP also worked closely with other agencies and stakeholders in getting financial reforms such as the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act and the Financial Products and Services Consumer Protection Act passed in Congress to provide relief to pandemic-hit sectors and safeguard consumers from unethical and fraudulent financial schemes.

Diokno also cited the BSP’s hand in the approval of the Gold Law, the Philippine Identification System Act, the Islamic Banking Law, and the amendments to the BSP charter prior to the pandemic.

He said the BSP acted prudently in issuing monetary policies and expanded opportunities to boost digital payments and financial inclusion among Filipinos.

“We have kept a patient hand on our monetary policy levers in the face of rising inflation to allow our economic recovery to gain a stronger foothold,” Diokno said.

“Our banking sector continues to be sound and stable—the result of good corporate governance and appropriate risk management practices, as well as sound banking sector regulations and a robust supervisory framework,” he added.

Acknowledging his confidence in the new BSP Governor, Diokno said he is certain that the central bank’s Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap will make significant strides under Medalla’s leadership.

“There are many more improvements in store for us and for the Filipino people. You and I have so much to offer in the service of our country regardless of what hat we wear,” Diokno said.

“I am confident that with the leadership of your new team captain—Governor Medalla—and the Monetary Board, you will continue to deliver game-changing reforms and bring the BSP even closer to the Filipino people,” he added.

On his watch, Diokno said the BSP promoted green finance, studied the feasibility and policy implications of issuing a central bank digital currency, and released the Philippines’ first-ever polymer banknote.

Diokno also cited the BSP’s rapid shift to cloud-based communication tools to accommodate work-from-home arrangements, which increased its efficiency during the pandemic lockdowns.

Seeing things from a broader perspective, Diokno said that the pandemic has accelerated the innovation and digitalization of BSP products and services.

Some of these include the electronic submission of bids and online conduct of procurement activities, and maximizing the use of e-documents, e-signatures, and even online payments.

“We have our own version of “Build, Build, Build” in the BSP. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we expanded our existing facilities and built new structures,” Diokno said.

He added that “Not many know this, but we also have an Electronic Security Modernization Project, which is intended to enhance BSP security operations with the use of the latest security technology that is fully integrated and meets global standards.”

The project aims to unify security systems in all BSP regional offices and branches through a centralized command center. Diokno envisions it to not only optimize the central bank’s security manpower resources, but also “have real-time data and video analytics for faster decision-making and quicker response, rescue and recovery efforts, if and when needed.”