By Louise Maureen Simeon, August 24, 2021; The Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — Some 4.5 million Filipinos were able to open a bank account for the first time with the continued rollout of the national ID aimed at addressing financial inclusion, especially among the country’s low-income households.

In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the Land Bank of the Philippines said 4.47 million people managed to be included in the formal banking system as of the first semester.

Of this number, 27 percent or 1.23 million were able to access online digital payments and other transactions, mostly in the Visayas and Central Luzon.

This was possible as more Filipinos registered for the national ID system, allowing the government to be on track with its 2020 target of registering 70 million of the population.

Every time an individual registers for step two of the national ID, a person can automatically open a bank account on the spot as Landbank desks are available at all sites.

Landbank cards are provided free of charge and with no initial deposit requirement.

National ID holders can use these to withdraw cash, shop online and perform other cashless transactions, as well as receive any government subsidy digitally.

It is also contactless-enabled and can be used for tap payments that the government plans to roll out for public utility vehicles.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said the delivery of social services in the country is hampered by the lack of a centralized means of distributing cash transfers.

About 80 percent of low-income registrants have no bank account and they are having a hard time accessing bank services because of a lack of identification cards.

When the government distributed financial assistance last year due to the pandemic, a big percentage was still done manually, with only about four million done through bank transfers.

These were the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Landbank said the opening of bank accounts for registrants will aid in the efficient delivery of government assistance programs to unbanked beneficiaries.

To date, over 40 million Filipinos have completed the first step of registration for the national ID system. Of this, 20 million have advanced to the second step to capture their biometric information at designated registration centers.

For the third and final step, some 3.04 million physical cards have been printed, 1.05 million of which have already been delivered nationwide.

The Philippine Identification System Act aims to provide Filipinos easier access to financial, social protection, health, education and other government services. It will also establish a single national ID system for Filipino citizens and resident aliens.