By Ali G. Macabalang
MALABANG, Lanao del Sur
Areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), especially those without bank facilities, will soon acquire branches of at least government banks or automated teller machines (ATMs) to spur their socio-economic growths long stunted by absence of bank facilities.
The bright prospect stems from the recent agreement forged by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to link BARMM communities to the banking system.
MinDA and the DBP “have agreed to launch a program which aims to establish bank branches or at the very least ATMs in key cities and towns of the Bangsamoro Region,” Sec. Manny Piñol announced in a statement.
Sec. Piñol, MinDA chairman, said the new program will be launched in the first quarter of 2021 in pursuit of President Duterte administration’s commitment to hasten development growth in BARMM.
BARMM, which belongs to the country’s list of 10 poorest regions, covers the five provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan, and 63 barangays in five towns of North Cotabato. It has 118 towns, 95 percent of them lack bank facilities or even ATM kiosks.
Sec. Piñol and DBP President Emmanuel Herbosa forged the agreement after their successful installation of ATM kiosks at the compound of the Matling Industrial Commercial Corporation (MICC) and the municipal hall here and that of nearby Balabagan town last Dec. 3.
At the inauguration of the three ATMs, he said, he conferred with Herbosa and BARMM Police Regional Director Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez and presented the idea of linking more areas in the autonomous region to the banking system.
“I emphasized that the program, aside from allowing people in the region access to the banking system, will actually (exemplify) the success of the peace efforts of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in a region which had seen conflict for more than half a century,” Piñol said.
He said the record-setting program will need the support of the BARMM government, the military and police, and the host local government units to ensure the sustainability of proposed bank facilities from security issues.
Initially, Sec. Piñol asked the police sector to submit a list of towns within BARMM which are not connected to the banking system yet.
He said the agreement envisioned to install DBP ATM kiosks in police stations, municipal halls or military camps in BARMM to “ensure security.”
Among the first towns eyed to have a DBP ATM machine is Pikit which belongs to North Cotabato but could serve residents of barangays which belong to the BARMM.
The lack of bank facilities in BARMM areas simply imply unstable peace and security, so with the acute poverty rates in the localities, according to banking authorities.
Elusive dream come true
At the Dec. events here, MICC Chief Executive Alex Mancilla told Piñol that the installation of the ATMs in this town “was not just a realization of a life-long dream but a symbol of a more responsive governance we have now.”
“I have talked to two (or) three Presidents about this (establishment of a bank or ATM) but nothing happened until you came,” Mancilla told the MinDA chief.
Mancilla recalled that the Philippine National Bank had opened a branch here in the 1960s but after three days, the branch shut down. The Land Bank of the Philippines had operated here for three months and then left, he added
In a meeting here last August, MICC officials told a Pinol-led team that the absence of bank facilities had been a cause of burden among residents, especially cassava farmers who would either travel to Pagadian City or Cotabato City, over 100 kilometers away from here, to cash check payments for their product or settle for five percent deduction rate by money remittance outlets. (AGM)