Philippines Set to Close Digital Bank Applications for 3 Years

The Philippine central bank will stop accepting applications for digital banking licenses from Sept. 1, Governor Benjamin Diokno said.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will close the application window for three years to allow the regulator “to better monitor” the performance of the industry, Diokno said in a briefing Thursday. 

Submissions on or before end-August will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, Diokno said. The number of digital banks will be limited to seven in the meantime, he said. 

Central banks across Southeast Asia are establishing rules on virtual lenders as companies like Grab Holdings Inc. and Sea Ltd. have their eyes trained on the region. Malaysia and Singapore have said they will award as many as five new digital bank licenses. In the Philippines, several lenders want to secure digital banking permits as the pandemic accelerated a shift in online transactions.

Bangko Sentral has so far awarded digital bank licenses to five applicants namely UNObank, UnionDigital Bank, GoTyme, Overseas Filipino Bank, Tonik Bank. Two applications are being assessed, Diokno said. 

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