METRO MANILA—Three banks from Mindanao have recently won special citations in an annual event that serves to share local and international microfinance best practices and innovation among participating banks.
At the awarding ceremony of the 7th National Roundtable conference of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines- Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (Rbap-Mabs) held last week at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino in Manila, three out of seven bank awardees nationwide were from Mindanao: the First Valley Bank of Lanao del Norte, Cantilan Bank of Surigao del Sur, and Green Bank of Butuan City.
First Valley Bank won as the Best Performing Bank in Agriculture Microfinance and was cited for growing the bank’s microagri-loan clients and portfolio in 2009. Its active number of borrowers and portfolio for that year increased by 17 percent, cumulative number and amount of loans disbursed rising by 39 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
Green Bank and Cantilan Bank were likewise given the Trailblazing Award for Housing Microfinance, mainly for “their interest and pioneering stance in offering housing microfinance products to their clients, and participating in the step by step process of market research, product development, pilot testing, monitoring, reviewing and product rolling out.” Sharing this award were the Luzon-based Bangko Kabayan and GM Bank.
Another Trailblazing Award for the Use of Rating Agencies, was accorded to Green Bank, along with the Luzon-based GM Bank, First Macro Bank, and Bangko Kabayan. These banks were acknowledged for being the first movers in subjecting their banks under the scrutiny and set of lenses of the microfinance rating agencies. The awards body said these banks’ leadership in this area provided examples to other rural banks on the benefits of being rated by external raters.
Other awards given during the annual conference were Top Performing Bank in Mobile Photo Transaction PR Bank; and Certificates of Recognition to micro-insurance agencies that have partnered with Rbap to work with Mabs and interested participating banks on offering micro-insurance products and services beyond credit-life insurance.
A special citation was also given to Philippine Star Business Editor Ted Torres, for their continuing coverage of the rural banking sector and the Mabs program activities that highlight positive achievements that the Filipino people are capable of attaining.
Organized by the USAid-Mabs, the Rbap, and the Mindanao Development Authority (Minda), the annual conference serves to increase the participating banks’ awareness on the latest trends and innovations in microfinance. The conference also serves as a forum for presenting and discussing with the banks the annual results of their microfinance operations.
With this year’s theme as “Microfinance: From Best Practice to Next Practice”, discussions focused on the latest trends and challenges in the microfinance industry, transparency and consumer protection, group liability vs. individual liability, micro-insurance, fraud, Housing Microfinance and value propositions in banks to stand out against stiff market competition.
“Beyond profit, rural banks must maximize the unique opportunity to serve as a channel for addressing poverty,” said Secretary Jesus Dureza, chairperson of MinDA, in his opening message at the annual conference.
Dureza also serves as chairperson of the steering committee of the Mindanao Peace and Development (Mpad) assistance program of the governments of the Philippines and the United States, which Minda oversees as one of its peace and development projects in Mindanao.
As one of the five ongoing projects under Mpad, the Mabs program has been providing technical assistance to the participating rural banks for 12 years now since 1998. Mabs has provided the tools needed by the rural banks to flourish in microfinance to eventually help low income earners and the marginalized.
“In the face of stiff competition, rural banks must continuously develop their expertise in agriculture finance and should take concrete roles in strengthening food sufficiency in Mindanao,” said Dureza.
He added that Mindanao rural banks, should take advantage of the island’s vast and still untapped agriculture resources by opening up appropriate financial windows to help promote and strengthen the financial needs of the region’s value-chain for both the traditional and the non-traditional crops such as fruits, vegetables, and mariculture products.
“(Rural banks) are also encouraged to lend financial support to the former conflict affected communities that are on their initial steps to regain peace and development in their area,” said Dureza.
For rural banks to thrive and sustain its efforts in a competitive market, Dureza said that they should keep up with technology and explore the possibility of forming a network so that clients may access them from one rural area to another.(MinDA)