Helping the helper

In the wake of the devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda, the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) has proposed to some government agencies several rehabilitation measures to help rural banks and their respective staff and clients get back on their feet following the debacle.

In their proposal to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), RBAP said the requested measures focus on tools that are within the capability of the each respective agencies to implement, and therefore are very much doable.

For the rehabilitation of the bank’s manpower, RBAP requested for direct financial assistance beyond the limits of each affected rural bank’s BSP-approved Financial Assistance Program for bank staff, as well as exemption for each affected bank staff’s deposit accounts from dormancy for five years. For their loan accounts, RBAP proposed a suspension of interest and all charges for five years. The group is likewise asking from the BSP a one-time write-off of one existing loan per bank staff.

For the rehabilitation of rural banks, RBAP recommended the immediate application of BSP’s regulatory relief measures; bank recapitalization by the BSP payable from the 5th to 15th year after the calamity; exemption from all fees due to the regulators for five years, and; extraordinary safeguarding by banks of the existing accounts of each affected rural bank, such as exemption from dormancy for five years for their deposit accounts and suspension of interest and all charges for five years for their loan accounts.

In addition, RBAP requested the PDIC to grant rural banks the ability to service withdrawals up to P500,000 per client, with funds coming from PDIC. This is in recognition that loan payments may be severely curtailed affecting the bank’s cash position. The affected rural bank will eventually repay the PDIC on a staggered basis.

The Association also appealed for PDIC’s assistance in providing extension of the Strengthening Program for Rural Banks privileges to interested affected rural banks; and a suspension of its regulatory fees for five (5) years for affected rural banks.
Meanwhile, from the BIR, the Association is seeking an exemption of affected rural bank staff and clients from income and property taxes for five years; An exemption from estate taxes for the surviving kin of the affected rural bank staff and clients who died from the calamity, and; an exemption of affected rural banks from all local and national taxes for five years.

RBAP has expressed hope that the aforementioned proposals will be granted given the extraordinary circumstances presented in the aftermath of the super typhoon. After all, even the most ardent helpers of the poor sometimes need help themselves.