MCPI Chairperson Mila Bunker, Citibank Country Officer Sanjiv Vohra, fellow champions of microfinance, distinguished resource persons, special guests, good morning.
It is a pleasure to be part of this Annual Conference ... at a time when we are seeing concrete gains from the programs we have been implementing in the microfinance industry.
This is evident in the millions of clients reached, stable microfinance institutions nurtured and strengthened, innovative products and services introduced... as well as the development of an enabling environment for microfinance across our country.
Indeed, microfinance in the Philippines has liberated millions of Filipinos from poverty; transformed millions of micro-entrepreneurs to become savers and bank depositors; and generated millions of jobs in local communities.
Equally important, we have proven... beyond any doubt... that microfinance is a sustainable strategy for improving lives and promoting inclusive growth.
But what is most gratifying... is the determination of advocates of the Philippine microfinance sector to continue to explore ways to do better.
Clearly, our success has not bred complacency. One proof is this conference with the theme “Focusing on Responsible and Client-Centered Microfinance.”
Aside from taking stock of where we are today, your conference seeks to create synergies that build strengths, to warn against over-indebtedness and other risks to microfinance, and to guide microentrepreneurs handle their finances better and build ventures that last.
We at the BSP agree that initiatives to expand access to financial services... not only for microfinance but for the public in general... must be coupled with the push for greater financial education and consumer protection.
This is the reason why the Bangko Sentral has created units that are focused on financial education and consumer protection.
For instance, BSP briefings help people make informed decisions on savings, investments, debt management, avoiding scams and how to achieve financial independence.
On the other hand, real-time economic and financial Information that can help microentrepreneurs and the public in general, may be accessed at the BSP’s 21 Economic and Financial Learning Centers across the country, in addition to the main center at the BSP Head Office in Manila.
For consumer protection, the BSP has created the Financial Consumer Affairs Group to act on public complaints, inquiries and requests involving our supervised institutions.
On the other hand, the issuance of Circular 730 is another BSP initiative to protect the interest of Filipino borrowers. Circular 730 on truth and transparency in lending... enhances loan price transparency and improves disclosure practices.
Among others, the BSP has required a standard format of disclosure to ensure that borrowers are given information about their loans that are simple and easy to understand.
The implementation of standard rules across all types of credit-granting entities – including microfinance NGOs and in-house financiers -- is crucial in developing enhanced transparency and truth in lending. As such, the BSP will coordinate on this matter with other regulators including the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
In this connection, I look forward to having microfinance NGOs be among the first institutions to embrace this enhanced truth and transparency in lending regime.
In all of this, my optimism is grounded on reality. Early this year, the microfinance sector launched the very first microfinance credit bureau in our country. Truly, it was inspiring to see the coming together of microfinance industry leaders; they transcended narrow competitive interests for the greater good.
The greater good of the microfinance sector is also the rationale that underpins the annual Citi Microentrepreneur of the Year Awards Program, which we are launching this morning. Now on its 10th year, this awards program celebrates the inspiring gains micro-entrepreneurs in the country continue to achieve through determination and innovation.
I can tell you that the rich selection of finalists makes it more difficult each year for the judges to choose the awardees. Nevertheless, this is more than offset by their joy... in the discovery of many successful Filipino micro-entrepreneurs who overcome difficulties with creativity and tenacity.
Their success tells us that we are on the right track; that we should continue to work together to make the microfinance sector better, bigger and more inclusive.
I wish MCPI therefore a fruitful annual conference and the MOTY another smash hit on its 10th year.
Mabuhay ang Philippine microfinance sector! Mabuhay ang ating mahal na bansang Pilipinas!
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat!