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More ASEAN banks eye PH investments


By Lee C. Chipongian

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said banks from three ASEAN countries are keen on scouting for investment opportunities in the country.

Espenilla said banks from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are eyeing investments in the country following agreements to explore the banking landscapes in the region.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla

MB File- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr.

So far, a number of new banks that opened branches here come from Taiwan and Japan, and about eight more banks that expressed interests are likely from these parts of the globe as well.

Espenilla, who will succeed BSP Governor Amando Tetangco whose second term expires on July 2, 2017, said they are encouraging foreign bank competition to improve financial products in the country and improve the deposits base.

“There’s a number of banks in the pipeline – too many – and most are Asian banks,” he noted.

He added that there is one non-Asian or non-ASEAN bank that wants to come in, but it is looking for a local bank partner instead of setting up a full branch on its own.

Espenilla said new banking investors are about to make their presence known soon and their interests are “directly linkable” to the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework or ABIF initiatives.

Earlier this year, the BSP concluded initial bilateral discussions with the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and Bank of Thailand (BOT) for ABIF-related guidelines to explore Qualified ASEAN Banks (QABs) as part of the regional financial markets’ integration. A set of guidelines are also being concluded with the Indonesian central bank.

The bilateral discussion allows all countries involved to explore opportunities and common interests through the QABs.

Basically, ABIF provides the general principles for the entry of QABs from one ASEAN member-state to another.

The agreement signed by the BSP reflects the specific conditions for QABs from each jurisdiction to enter the other in a manner that is consistent with global banking standards and meets host jurisdiction regulations.

The Philippines is one of the first ASEAN member states to pursue the ABIF initiatives which will be implemented in three years.

In preparation for the ABIF, the Philippines opened the foreign bank entry law further to allow more foreign banks to establish a full-owned subsidiary or branch in the country.

The updated law effectively opened up to 40 percent of the total banking assets to foreigners and should bring additional foreign direct investments. This law permits foreign banks to acquire 100 percent of the voting stock of an existing domestic bank from the previous 60 percent limit and does not cap the number of foreign banks that will operate locally.

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