The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has approved only 10 new banking branches in the second quarter, up from just two in the first quarter this year.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the BSP was receiving and approving up to 100 new banking offices every quarter.

Only one big bank, BDO Unibank Inc. applied to open two branch-lite units in Metro Manila while three rural and cooperative banks applied for one microfinance-oriented branch and seven branch-lite units in different areas outside of the National Capital Region.

In a memo signed by BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier, she said four commercial bank regular branches opened its new business in the second quarter, while five thrift banks opened two regular branches and seven branch-lite units.

BSP Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier

Fonacier said 11 rural and cooperative banks, in the meantime, opened two regular branches and 24 branch-lite units in the second quarter.

The BSP is listing all non-regular bank branches as branch-lite units since 2018. This means that banks’ extension offices, microbanking offices and other banking offices are now referred to as branch-lite units. The BSP also allows conversion of regular branches into branch-lite units.

The difference between regular branches and branch-lite units is that the latter have limited banking activities but could provide a wide range of products and services suited for servicing the needs of the market except for sophisticated clients with aggressive risk tolerance; while the former (regular branches) are full-sized banks, mostly traditional brick and mortar branches or contained within a building and offers full banking services.

As of end-October this year, there are 46 big banks or the universal and commercial banks being supervised by the BSP. There are 47 thrift banks and 420 rural and cooperative banks.

Source: Manila Bulletin (