The COVID-19 pandemic has turned consumers to digital payments in the Philippines.
MANILA — Digital payments are increasingly gaining currency in the Philippines as consumers avoid physical contact due to fears of acquiring the coronavirus, which is thought to reduce the spread of germs that could otherwise be passed on in the use of bills and coins.
The number of registered users at Globe Telecom’s GCash, the country’s largest supplier of mobile money services, increased by 150 percent in the month from mid-March. GCash and its primary competitor, PLDT’s PayMaya, are launching strong marketing campaigns to position themselves to profit from the post-COVID-19 era’s “new normal.”
The Philippines has been falling behind its neighbors in terms of digital payment use, but now it is rapidly catching up.
“Financial technology should be considered the backbone of digital services in a world where digital is the new normal,” Pebbles Sy, chief technology and operations officer of Globe Fintech Innovations, or Mynt, which manages the GCash service, said in mid-May.
He told local media that “apart from the convenience, it is also less risky than cash handling, more efficient than physical payments, and extremely transparent.”
According to GCash, the total amount of payments made on its platform in May was eight times higher than a year earlier. With 20 million registered users, GCash is the Philippines’ largest mobile wallet. The service is available at 63,000 stores, the majority of which are tenants of commercial complexes owned by Ayala Corp., which also owns Globe Telecom.
Both GCash and PayMaya are focusing on areas where demand for digital currency is expected to grow fast. GCash, with support from the government, will help equip taxis with scan-to-pay systems using QR codes. Users will pay by scanning QR codes displayed on fare meters with their smartphones.
PayMaya Philippines, the digital payment service’s operator, has also partnered with Makati Medical Center in Makati, Metro Manila, to accept payments for telemedicine services. Patients can use a videoconferencing app to “see” their doctors in their homes through the teleconsultation service. QR codes can be used to pay for these appointments.
“By enabling their teleconsultation with digital payments, we help them reduce the risk of acquiring or spreading the virus among doctors and patients while also enabling them to continue providing much-needed healthcare services despite the public health situation,” PayMaya President Shailesh Baldwin said.
For now, rail, bus and taxi companies still mostly accept cash payment only. Grab, the region’s leading ride-hailing app, accepts credit card payment, but many users still pay in cash.
By the end of the year, the government hopes to make the new National QR Code Standard, in collaboration with public and private-sector banks, commercially accessible.