Mobile cash transfer system goes live in Tacloban

Dec 23, 2013

Soledad Rivas, is one of the hundreds of people clearing debris in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. (Photo: OCHA/Gemma Cortes)

Manila -- A test group of more than 100 people in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban starts getting paid today through mobile phones. This money transfer system will be used for those employed in emergency clean-up schemes in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Eligible participants include those enrolled 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 the typhoon. Many of the beneficiaries are helping to clear rubble and municipal waste from roads, public buildings, schools, and hospitals.

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

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

The beneficiaries are given a new mobile phone with charger, a SIM card with initial P10.00 airtime load, free SMS for 30 days and a Land Bank 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 UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Luiza Carvalho. “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.”

The Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippine regulator, granted the Land Bank and Smart Communications flexible "know your customer" requirements, given that the survivors have lost all their properties and documents in the aftermath of the 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,” said 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,” added Smart Communications and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company president and CEO Napoleon Nazareno.

The money transfer system will expand to areas such as Roxas, Guian and Ormoc.

Contact information

Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo, Communications Consultant, UNDP Philippines,

Cherie Hart, UNDP Regional Communications Advisor, UNDP Bangkok:

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