The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) amended the Manual of Regulations for Banks through Circular No. 777, dated Dec. 13. It gave banks three years, from the original provision of one year, to open their approved but unopened branches.
After the three-year period lapses, the approval will not be extended by the Monetary Board, the BSP said.
All branches with unexpired approvals as of June 17 will be covered by the new three-year period.
“This is just a practical matter as many banks are opening multiple branches at the same time. This is to help avoid having to come back to the Monetary Board frequently for extensions,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. said in a text message yesterday.
The new circular will take effect 15 days following its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
The central bank has been moving to ease branching rules for banks in order to further expand the financial system.
In June, it removed the cap on the number of branches that a bank can apply for at a given time. Initially, a bank could apply for only five branches at a time with the Monetary Board, but now, a bank can establish as many branches as it wants, as long as its capital can support the move.
The BSP also opened restricted areas — covering eight cities in Metro Manila — for bank branching last year. These areas were previously adjudged to host too many branches already, but the BSP reopened them to encourage competition, thereby improving financial services for the public.
The central bank estimates that as of end-2011, only two out of 10 Filipino households maintained bank accounts. A third of municipalities also had no banking office. Banking services were concentrated in high-income and urbanized areas. — Diane Claire J. Jiao