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First BSP-licensed Islamic bank opens in BARMM

Lawyer Normina Datudacula (extreme right), manager of the Islamic Banking Supervisory Group of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Mohammad Pasigan (second from left), chairperson of the Bangsamoro Board of Investments, together with other BARMM officials, led the inauguration of CARD Bank, Inc., the first Islamic bank to operate in Cotabato City for the Bangsamoro people. (Photo: PIA Cotabato City)

COTABATO CITY (PIA) --  The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)-licensed Islamic Branch of Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Bank, Inc., is now open to Bangsamoro residents, offering a wide range of financial products and services aligned with Islamic principles.

Lawyer Normina Datudacula, manager of the Islamic Banking Supervisory Group of BSP, explained that the opening of an Islamic bank in Cotabato City marked another milestone in the country’s commitment to developing the Islamic finance ecosystem.

She said since the enactment of Republic Act 11439, or the Islamic Banking Law, the BSP has laid down regulatory reforms to promote the growth of Islamic banking in the Philippines, and CARD Bank “has responded to the demands of the times.”

“As you begin your Islamic banking journey, rest assured that the BSP will be your steadfast partner, continuously issuing and enabling regulations to expand Islamic banking and finance in the country,” Datudacula added.

The Card Bank, the first Islamic Bank in Cotabato City, caters to the community in the Bangsamoro region with inclusive financial services following its inauguration on January 22, 2024. The establishment of this Islamic branch aims to serve the unbanked and underbanked population to strengthen the region’s economy while providing ethical Shariah-compliant financial services. (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Information Office)

CARD Bank, the first BSP-licensed Islamic bank in the Philippines and the second Islamic bank to operate in the country, opened for business in the city on January 22.

The Amanah Islamic Bank, a universal bank that became a subsidiary of Development Bank of the Philippines in 2008, is the first Islamic bank in the country established under Presidential Decree 264, which is “authorized to perform and provide Islamic banking, financing, and investment services pursuant to R.A. 6848, otherwise known as the Charter of the Al-Amanah Islamic Bank of the Philippines of 1990.”

CARD Bank is a microfinance-oriented rural bank established on September 1, 1997, in San Pablo City, Laguna, with 54 branches and 329 micro-banking offices (MBO) located nationwide and serving more than 900,000 clients across the country.

Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, founder and chair emeritus of CARD Bank, pointed out the significance of their Islamic branch in Cotabato City since its goal is to empower local communities and provide them with accessible and ethical financial services in compliance with Shari'ah law. (Photo: PIA Cotabato City)

According to Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, founder and chair emeritus of CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (MRI), Islamic banking is different from conventional banking since the former does not impose interest in accordance with the Shari’ah law promoting risk-sharing.

“We are in the business of poverty eradication, so everybody should not be left behind. So ‘yung nakita namin [what we saw], we want to do something with our Muslim communities, and in order to do that, we have to have a very special branch, at ang mga [and the] financial products na ito ay [of this are] following Islamic principles,” Alip said in an earlier interview.

Alip further said that the establishment of the Islamic branch aims to serve “the unbanked and underbanked population” to strengthen the region’s economy while providing ethical and Shari’ah-compliant financial services to the Bangsamoro people.

Bangsamoro Board of Investments Chairperson Mohammad Pasigan commended CARD Bank for braving the task of promoting Islamic banking services in BARMM, as he assured the bank management of the Bangsamoro government's support while expressing confidence in its positive impact on the regional economy. (Photo: PIA Cotabato City)

Meanwhile, Mohammad Pasigan, chairperson of the Bangsamoro Board of Investments (BBOI), highlighted the importance of financial institutions adopting diverse needs and preferences to ensure a more inclusive and equitable financial system.

“I am commending the CARD Bank for taking the lead in promoting Islamic banking services in the region with my high optimism about the positive impact it would have on the local economy,” Pasigan said.

Card Bank’s wide range of financial products and services based on Islamic finance principles include Wadiah Deposits accounts such as Wadiah Basic Savings, Wadiah Regular Savings, and Wadiah ATM Savings; Term Investment Deposits under Mudharabah; Micro-Agri Financing and Micro-Enterprise Financing under Murabahah or Musharakah contracts; and Supplemental Commodity Financing under Murabahah 2, all in compliance with Islamic finance law.

The bank’s design is also culturally sensitive, with an Islamic prayer room that clients may conveniently use for contemplation and worship.

Pasigan said clients can expect digital banking services, including the mobile banking application “konek2CARD,” which enables them to manage accounts and conduct transactions easily using their Android mobile phones. (LTB – PIA Cotabato City)

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