Piggy banks safe under anti-coin hoarding bill
MANILA, Philippines—Hoarding coins? You could be penalized. But if you’re only saving up in a piggy bank, don’t fret.
The Senate has begun hearing a bill seeking to penalize individuals or groups engaged in the large-scale hoarding and export of coins.
Banking authorities conceded that the hoarding of coins for melting into raw materials for mobile phones, computers and other gadgets was a “big problem.”
All Philippine coins are made of copper, brass, nickel, aluminum or steel. The rising values of these metals have encouraged syndicates to hoard and export the coins, leading to a coin shortage that began in 2004.
Senate Bill No. 2452, authored by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, however, exempts those keeping their coins in piggy banks, jars, drawers and purses.
“The original reaction from the public when they found out that we’re going to conduct a hearing was, ‘What, my piggy bank will become a criminal?’ I was put on the defensive and I said no, of course not,” Osmeña said.
Banking officials said the proposed law would target big-time hoarders, not small-time savers.
The House of Representatives has passed its version of the measures, House Bill No. 4411.
The Senate version also exempts retail businesses that use coins in their operations, as well as charitable institutions, private banks and government financial institutions that need coins in connection with their functions.
In last Thursday’s hearing, Osmeña asked Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) officials to set the limits for keeping coins—in terms of value, number of pieces and aggregate value.
Iluminada Sicat, managing director for the BSP’s Currency Management Sub-sector, said it could be difficult to set a specific amount, especially in the case of traders.
Businesses, she said, were more comfortable with “putting a ratio based on sales.”
But Osmeña said that the measure would not pass unless the amount was specific “subject to future adjustments.”
“We have to protect the public also. We don’t want them going around thinking that we’ve just given a blank check to an institution like the Bangko Sentral to determine what volume is legal or not,” he said.
He said the “big guys” could hire lawyers to question matters, but the small-time savers should be given a “comfort level” as to the amount of coins they could keep.
Sicat said the BSP could set a limit, say P5,000 for small savers, and another limit for retailers who keep coins for change.
The bill, known as the proposed “Anti-Hoarding of Philippine Legal Tender Coins Act,’’ imposes a penalty of eight years’ imprisonment and a fine of not less than the face or intrinsic value of the coins, not exceeding P300,000, for coin hoarding. TJ Burgonio
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