Mobile cash transfer system goes live in Tacloban

Dec 23, 2013

After losing so much from Typhoon Haiyan, these UNDP beneficiaries now have an additional source of income from UNDP, a LANDBANK savings account, and a new phone from Smart. (Photo: UNDP Philippines)

The roll-out of the mobile cash transfer system is underway in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban. This money transfer system will be used for those who are employed in emergency clean-up schemes in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Eligible participants include those who enroll in one of the cash-for-work projects operated by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), civil society or United Nations agencies in the areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Many are helping to clear rubble and municipal waste from roads, public buildings, schools and hospitals.

This pilot mobile phone payment system is made possible through a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) and mobile phone operator Smart Communications.  The first phase will reach 5,000 beneficiaries, and expand over time to reach a target group of 50,000 people. 

“This is a cash transfer system through cell phones that will make cash-for-work payments safer and faster,” said Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator. “It will help us better assist the families affected by Typhoon Haiyan.”

The initial beneficiaries today will each be provided with a new Samsung mobile phone, a SIM with initial P30.00 airtime load, and a LANDBANK ATM cash card.

“This mobile cash transfer system provides access to financial services among the poor and vulnerable who have not been using banks at all,” said Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. “The mobile cash transfers will speed up the recovery effort as it will align emergency employment cash-for-work programmes with the national DSWD activities.”

Earlier, the Philippine regulator, the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas granted the LANDBANK and Smart a special approval “relaxing” the know-your-customer (KYC) requirements of the intended beneficiaries. This was immediately granted given that the survivors have lost all their properties and important documents in the aftermath of the super typhoon.

“The active role of UNDP and other international humanitarian organizations have hastened the relief and recovery efforts of the government. With the use of the massive payout network of the Land Bank of the Philippines coupled with Smart’s extensive telecommunications infrastructure and mobile money platform capability, we are confident that we can deliver what is expected of us in terms of service reliability,” according to Land Bank of the Philippines president and CEO Gilda Pico.

“This use of technology is an important contribution to disaster relief and recovery programs because of its direct benefit to those who survived this recent calamity,” said Smart Communications and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

“This proves the pervasiveness of mobile phones and how it could be utilized as a tool for immediate disaster response.  The Philippines, dubbed as the “texting capital” of the world, with a high penetration rate, is undoubtedly able to stand by this moniker, as we see the use of mobile phones is fully optimized to help those in need,” according to Lito Villanueva, Smart Communicaton’s head of e-money innovation, payment ecosystem build and global alliances.

The phone payment plan will expand to areas such as Roxas, Guian and Ormoc in the new year.

For more information please contact:

In Manila: Stanislav Saling, Spokesperson a.i., UNDP Philippines,;

In Bangkok: Cherie Hart, UNDP Regional Communications Advisor, +66 8 1 918 1564

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