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Philippine banks offer relief to borrowers, waive fees amid COVID-19 outbreak

Philippine banks are offering grace periods on loan repayment and temporarily waiving fees for online money transfers as part of efforts to help customers affected by enhanced community quarantine imposed by authorities in the country's Luzon region to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

The moves came as concerns grow about borrowers' ability to meet their payment obligations amid the outbreak. In response, banks, including BDO Unibank Inc. and Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., the country's largest and second-largest banks by assets, respectively, announced grace periods and other relief measures on their social-media pages.

BDO Unibank Inc. offered a 60-day grace period, which covers qualified credit card, auto, home, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as personal loan customers with due dates of up to April 15, the longest grace period offered among other banks. Similarly, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Security Bank Corp., East West Banking Corp. and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. announced 30-day extensions for loans, mortgages and credit card payments to eligible customers.

Meanwhile, Union Bank of the Philippines, China Banking Corp., Philippine Savings Bank, Philippine National Bank and Robinsons Bank Corp. are offering 30-day grace periods to eligible customers for credit card and loan payments. In addition, Philippine Bank of Communications said it will assist qualified customers of their personal, auto and home loans who wish to avail of a one-month payment holiday.

Some banks in the country have also temporarily waived fees for digital money transfer transactions via InstaPay and PesoNet.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16 placed the island region of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine amid rising number of new coronavirus cases in the country. The move prompted the Philippine stock exchange to halt trading from March 17, the first stock exchange in the world to do so amid the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed trading on March 19 but with reduced hours.

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