BSP seals polymer deal with Australia


THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced on Thursday it has reached an agreement with Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and its wholly owned subsidiary Note Printing Australia for the production of the local 1000-piso polymer banknotes.

In a virtual briefing, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said the delivery of the first batch of 1000-piso polymer notes from Australia will be in April next year. It will then be circulated to the economy in mid-2022.

“Australia is the first country to issue full series polymer banknotes and has produced and supplied polymer banknotes to several countries. As such, their advanced technology and expertise in the printing of polymer banknotes will be the best benchmark for our first circulation,” Diokno said.

In October this year, the BSP announced that it is eyeing to circulate—on a limited and trial basis—new 1000-piso banknotes made out of polymer. Currently, Philippine banknotes are made of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent abaca.

BSP Deputy Governor Mert Tangonan earlier said in light of the global health crisis, polymer banknotes are seen to be more hygienic and sanitary, as other central banks have reported that they are less likely to host viruses and bacteria. Polymer banknotes can also be sanitized without damage, compared to paper banknotes, they said.

The deputy governor claimed polymer banknotes can be more durable, sustainable and cost-effective in production.

BSP’s decision to test-run polymer notes during the pandemic, however, has been met with resistance—particularly from the fiber sector.

Earlier this year, Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFida) raised to lawmakers’ attention its opposition to the Central Bank’s plan to change the country’s currency to polymer-based from abaca-cotton material.

“Having abaca as a component in our paper money is a great source of pride among Filipinos as it is indigenous to the Philippines. This position paper is also in support of the numerous abaca farmers and their families who are dependent on abaca for their source of livelihood,” PhilFida Executive Director Kennedy Costales told lawmakers earlier this year.

On Thursday, Diokno said the possible use of polymer banknotes was discussed by the Monetary Board as early as 2008. “Public concerns are making the BSP’s efforts in this regard more urgent,” the governor said.

Among the concerns Diokno mentioned were the frequent sanitation of banknotes, security against counterfeits and environmental sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

As of March this year, around 57 countries have ventured into the use of polymer substrates—Among advanced economies, these include Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Among emerging and developing economies, some of those which adopted polymer banknotes include Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico, and Fiji.

“Based on our research, among the most cited strengths of polymer banknotes are their being relatively more hygienic, difficult to counterfeit, durable and cost-effective, and environmentally friendly,” Diokno said.

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