SENATORS reached a consensus to prod monetary authorities to stop the frequent changes in the design of Philippine bank notes, even while a legislative inquiry on the matter is ongoing.
Before adjourning last September 28 for a 5-week recess that ends November 5, senators led by Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said the chamber will craft a “sense of the Senate resolution” echoing the concerns raised by Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III over what he deemed serious implications of a recent decision by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to change, once again, the design of 1,000-peso bank notes and reduce the use of abaca as material of bank notes in favor of polymer or plastic.
In Wednesday’s plenary session, Pimentel delivered a privilege speech questioning the BSP for using polymer in the new 1,000-peso bill replacing the old bank note, which is made of 80-percent cotton and 20-percent abaca (Manila hemp).
Pimentel stressed that the Manila hemp fiber is known for its durability, flexibility, and resistance to salt water.
“Abaca is so much part of our history and Filipino identity. The shift to polymer will be detrimental to the country’s abaca industry, especially the country’s income from the export of abaca fibers and manufactures amounting to $97.1 million per year,” Pimentel said.
According to the Federation of Free Farmers, the BSP’s decision to discontinue the use of abaca in making the 1,000-peso bill has reduced the market for the product and lessened the income of the 200,000 abaca-making families in 56 provinces in the country.
During deliberations after Pimentel’s speech, Zubiri said he takes interest in the matter because, besides the country’s abaca capital of Catanduanes province, his native Bukidnon also produces abaca.
Sen. Pia S. Cayetano, for her part, noted that the Central Bank, in justifying the shift from abaca to plastic, had touted the “sustainability” of such a move by citing studies that the plastic notes last longer than the abaca-based notes.
However, Cayetano said, that sustainability is defeated by the decision’s failure to satisfy SDG Goal 8, on providing adequate jobs and livelihood. That decision to shift to plastic hurts Filipino farmers of abaca, of which the Philippines is the second largest producer in the world.
Zubiri also recalled the issues raised against the use of polymer: the plastic money cannot be folded, even though Filipinos have always, by practice, been folding their bills; and, the need to put the polymer notes in “bigger wallets” among others.