CatSU: BSP should rethink plan to use plastic in banknotes instead of abaca

The Catanduanes State University has joined the chorus of voices opposing the plan of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to use polymers or plastic in banknotes instead of abaca fiber.
In an interview given before UNTV, CatSU President Dr. Patrick Alain T. Azanza called on BSP officials to seriously study their plan to replace abaca fiber with polymer, as it would have a big impact on the abaca industry in the province.
As Catanduanes is the abaca capital of the world, he said that a reduction in fiber production would affect the livelihood of 13,000 abaca farmers and their families, with 60% of the university’s students belonging to such families.
Dr. Azanza pointed out that there are scientific researches showing that use of polymers is three times as environmentally negative compared to the the use of paper products in the printing of banknotes.
“Baka ma-review ng BSP ang kanilang policy na ito dahil maraming pros and cons,” he stated. “Sinasabi halimbawa na ito mahirap i-counterfeit but at the same time may problema kasi nagpi-fade.”
“Ang sinasabi nila mas matibay daw ito, mas durable pero hindi mo ito pwedeng i-fold at nagiging sticky siya kapag nababasa,” he added. “Maraming dapat tingan o iconsider plus yung polymer, it uses animal fats and dito pa lang ang implikasyon nito apektado na naman yung biodiversity natin kasi yung steric acid yung lubricant na gagamitin diyan ay animal fats.”
The university president made known his position on the plan to test the use of polymer or plastic for banknotes after BSP Deputy Governor Mert Tangonan announced that polymer bills last longer, have lower bacterial count, and are more cost-efficient than paper money.
Tangonan also claimed that the shift would have minimal effect on the abaca industry, noting that it would impact only 0.2% to 0.4% of abaca farming jobs and up to 0.2% of total abaca exports.
In a resolution passed last August 2021, the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Business recommended to the BSP the retention of abaca fiber in the production of Philippine banknotes in support to the local abaca farmers.
It recalled that in 2001, after thorough research, the BSP issued the first series of cotton-abaca blend peso bills printed on currency base paper using a fiber composite of 20 percent abaca and 80 percent cotton fiber for added durability – providing the banknotes with greater resistance against saltwater decomposition, high folding endurance, tear resistance, tensile strength, wet and bursting strength.
Polymer banknotes, it said, are sticky when wet and hard to handle and transport, with the shift to cost more as sorting machines will have to be modified.
It cited that no less than Sen. Manny Villar in Resolution No. 1191 in the 14th Congress described the plan of the BSP to shift to polymer as unpatriotic and anti-farmer, with the use of plastic running counter to the global movement to go green and organic, as many polymers are non-biodegradable.
It also said the BSP plan goes against the government’s efforts to advance the growth of the local abaca industry in boosting family income and employment in the countryside.

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