UNSGSA Queen Máxima to Visit to the Philippines to Support Scaling Up Financial Services for Better Financial Health

UNSGSA Queen Máxima in the Philippines in 2015
H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is pictured visiting the Philippines in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) in 2015. She will travel to the country once again in her UNSGSA role May 21-23, 2024. Photo courtesy of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), is scheduled to visit the Philippines from May 21-23, 2024. The visit will focus on advancing key foundational building blocks for financial inclusion—including connectivity, digital identification, and digital payments—as well as enhancing financial health and resilience against economic and climate-related challenges for Filipinos.

In recent years, the Philippines has seen considerable progress in financial access, with the proportion of adults owning a bank account rising from 26.6% in 2011 to 51.4% in 2021, as reported by the World Bank Global Findex. However, despite these gains, the Philippines remains among the world's top 10 countries with the highest number of unbanked adults at approximately 37.6 million.

The Findex data also highlights significant concerns about financial resilience among Filipinos. The primary financial worry for 42% of adults is covering medical costs in the event of a serious illness or accident, followed by concerns over managing monthly expenses (24%) and securing funds for old age (17%). The urgency for improved financial health has been underscored by the pandemic, with 68% of adults very worried about facing severe financial hardship.

Throughout the visit, Queen Máxima will recognize recent developments in digital ID implementation and digital payments systems while engaging with public and private sector leaders to discuss support for their expansion. Digital ID help people access safe and secure financial services such as digital payments. The visit will also highlight the need for more affordable financial services, crucial for the archipelago's many small islands.

During the trip, the UNSGSA will conduct field visits in Manila and its surrounding areas to hear firsthand from financial services users about innovations that significantly impact their lives, especially those enhancing financial health. Queen Máxima will visit a fisherfolk community to explore last-mile financial solutions that address the unique challenges present in remote island settings. The Special Advocate will also learn about a tech-enabled platform that empowers small ‘sari-sari’ (which means retail shop) store owners to grow their businesses, digitize their operations, and integrate into larger supply chains.

The agenda further includes high-level meetings for the UNSGSA with figures such as President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF) Ralph G. Recto, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Dr. Eli M. Remolona Jr., and other key policymakers and leaders. These discussions aim to foster partnerships and support continuous innovations in the financial sector. Queen Máxima will also meet with Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa to explore collaborative opportunities at a regional level.

Additionally, a focus group discussion with a diverse contingent of female financial users will provide insights into how financial products can effectively address the needs of women and enhance their financial health. Another highlight of the visit will be a demonstration of the Co-Develop’s South-East Asia Center for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) at Ateneo University.

Throughout her visit, Queen Máxima will emphasize the critical role of financial services in enhancing economic prospects and quality of life for all Filipinos, particularly those in underserved communities. By sharing insights and forging connections between global financial initiatives and local realities, the UNSGSA visit aims to inspire continued progress and innovation in the Philippines’ financial sector.

The UNSGSA will be supported by some of her Reference Group members, including the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), the Better than Cash Alliance, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), and the World Bank.

The UNSGSA previously visited the Philippines from June 29 to July 1 in 2015.