The P1,000-bill redesign: Questions for BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno
I disagree with Ambeth Ocampo’s judgment that the redesign of the P1,000 banknote by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is the “boldest” that has been done in decades (“‘Mukhang pera’ redux,” 12/15/21).
Firstly, he assumes that resistance to new currency designs is due to the natural aversion of Filipinos to change, which is why such milestones have been few and far between. This is certainly not so but simply a case of the central monetary authorities undertaking periodic redesign of peso notes as an anticounterfeit measure, if we are to believe BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno.
The historian Ocampo is also straying into a technical field which I doubt is within his expertise. He claims that the detailed design of the Philippine eagle provides protection against counterfeiting, similar to the intricate impression of Benjamin Franklin’s face on the American 100-dollar note. This is inaccurate, because it is the hologram integrated into the banknotes and not the elaborate shades, patterns, and dots that serves as the main anticounterfeit tool.
The new design has been met with loud objections over the removal of our three national heroes who symbolize Filipino resistance to Japanese occupation, and their replacement with the Philippine eagle, emblematic as it may be. Some people even suspect that this BSP initiative will sooner or later be followed by the phasing out of the Cory-Ninoy Aquino portrait from the P500 banknote. For Ocampo, “this issue is definitely for the birds,” but I would not immediately dismiss this possibility given organized attempts by the Marcos family at historical revisionism to undermine the legacy of the Aquinos who were instrumental in their ouster from power.
Ocampo should have delayed his favorable judgment of the new notes, because there are other important questions not related to the design itself that Diokno has yet to fully answer. Who decided to change the design and material of the P1,000 banknote? When and why? Were the internally established approval and consultation processes observed? Were the families of the three heroes to be displaced consulted or at least informed? How much is the unit cost of the imported polymer note compared to the BSP-printed notes currently in circulation? Even if it would be more counterfeit-proof and cost-effective in the long run, did BSP thoroughly study its advantages and disadvantages given local climatic and other conditions? What is the urgency in adopting the new banknotes and targeting their release in April, one month before the May 2022 elections? Was there a political consideration to this decision?
The BSP and Malacañang should be transparent before the public and show that this “boldest” move is not another underhanded maneuver to advance personal interests over those of the Filipino people, a tack that has seemingly become characteristic of the present administration.
Donato Soliven, [email protected]
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