Queen Máxima to focus on financial services and financial health during visit to the Philippines

From the evening of Monday 20 May to Thursday 23 May, Her Majesty Queen Máxima will be visiting the Republic of the Philippines in her role as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). Her visit will focus on promoting financial inclusion and financial health.

The programme includes two field visits on Tuesday. Queen Máxima will go to an island where she will speak with members of a fishing community about the positive effects of the digital financial services offered by CARD RBI on their income and financial health. Fishers are among those with the least access to financial services. They often live on remote islands where the financial infrastructure is limited. CARD RBI is a bank that develops financial products for low-income groups that are difficult to reach. These include savings products, loans and insurance (the last of which is offered in partnership with Pioneer Insurance).  

In a city on the mainland Queen Máxima will also visit a small neighbourhood shop known as a ‘sari-sari store’. Small-scale entrepreneurs cannot usually get loans from regular banks and have poor access to low-price products that can be delivered quickly. The fintech company GrowSari offers affordable loans and reasonably priced stock that is delivered quickly. In addition, through GrowSari clients can pay their bills, buy plane tickets, top up their phones and more in these stores. This is good for the stores and also increases the level of services in the neighbourhoods.

In the Philippines the number of adults with at least one bank account has risen from 26.6% in 2011 to 51.4% in 2021 (World Bank Global Findex Database). Despite this increase, there are major regional disparities. The Philippines is among the 10 countries with the highest number of adults without access to financial services; in the Philippines this number is approximately 37.6 million. This has to do in part with geography. The country consists of around 7,000 islands, many of which are sparsely populated and difficult to get to. And they often lack telecom connectivity. For financial institutions it is therefore difficult to provide services there, and doing so is not lucrative. Low-income communities, small-scale businesses, small-scale farms, fishing communities and women are left without secure, affordable financial services.

On Wednesday Queen Máxima will talk to a women’s focus group in Manila about how financial services contribute to their financial health and resilience. Both in her UN work and in the Netherlands, she advocates that financial health should be a guiding principle in developing policy and financial products that are attuned to people’s needs. For example, loan insurance policies and simple savings products that enable people to protect themselves against financial setbacks and invest in their future. The 2021 Global Findex Database shows that 68% of Filipinos are concerned about their financial health. 

Queen Máxima will also speak in Manila with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto, Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Dr. Eli M. Remolona, Jr., Secretary of the National Economy and Development Authority Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan and the President of the Asian Development Bank Masatsugu Asakawa, among others. In addition, there will be roundtable discussions with development partners, financial institutions and fintech companies. Topics will include the promotion of partnerships and the development of innovations for better financial inclusion and financial health. Queen Máxima will also visit the Anteneo de Manila University. The university and the non-profit organisation Co-Develop are launching a technical resource lab where public and private Philippine institutions can work together to improve digital public services and test these services within a secure and responsible environment to, among other things, foster financial inclusion. 

Queen Máxima will be accompanied on the trip by representatives in the reference group with whom she has been working since 2009: the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, the Better than Cash Alliance, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and the World Bank. She previously visited the Philippines in 2015.

Government Information Service, no. 135