Hundreds of poor families from several flood-prone villages in Cotabato City now have access to high-tech financial services that are compliant with the Sharia Islamic tradition.
These project participants of the Strengthening Urban Preparedness through Pre-emptive Action (SUPPA) have previously been unable to open bank accounts and be part of the formal financial banking system.
Now they are proud holders of PayMaya cards, which allow them to receive cash transfers to help them prepare for flooding.
Shairah Kasan, 30, thanked the SUPPA project for introducing the project participants to the digital banking world.
SUPPA, which is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, is jointly implemented by Oxfam Philippines, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS, Inc.), People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network, Inc. (PDRRN) and Humanity & Inclusion.
“PayMaya gives us convenience apart from the many other useful services it provides to cardholders,” said Shairah, who teaches fellow project participants – especially the elderly — how to use Paymaya cards.
Participating residents can also use the cards as a savings account where they can store money in case of emergencies.
Shairah said it’s easy for them to deposit savings in their accounts since they can just visit authorized PayMaya agents, which are plenty in the city.
Theirs is an impoverished community where several households have members working mostly in the Middle East as domestic helpers. Shairah, who is pregnant with their second child, herself worked in Saudi Arabia for two years.
The PayMaya card can also be used to receive money, including remittances from abroad, she noted.
PayMaya provides at least 35 million Filipinos access to financial services. It has a network of 39,000 partner agents nationwide that serve as last-mile digital financial hubs in communities, providing the unbanked and underserved with access to digital services.
Shairah also makes extra income from using her PayMaya account to serve as a mobile phone load provider for subscribers in her community.
From the 2,060 pesos that the SUPPA project deposited to her PayMaya account last November, she withdrew 1,800 pesos to buy food, medicines and other basic necessities in preparation for a looming flood.
She used the balance to sell phone load credits to her relatives and neighbors. This is a feature PayMaya offers that she’s taking advantage of. Shariah sells a 10-peso call load credit for 12 pesos, earning her two pesos per transaction.
SUPPA was rolled out in Cotabato City in 2020. According to project participants from the five Tamontaka villages, it is a novel project since they receive cash assistance days before a looming flood to help them prepare for the disaster.
Under the scheme, the cash assistance is released before the flood warning condition warrants an evacuation to safer ground. The project participants are from the flood-prone Barangays of Tamontaka 1 to 5.
Many houses in these villages have been built on stilts, with elevated rooms or with second floors to escape flooding. Flood warning levels have been set up in strategic areas of these villages to warn residents of the different danger signals.
Baidido Wahab, 32, a wife of a SUPPA beneficiary, said that having a PayMaya card, which does not require a maintaining money balance and is valid for four years but can be renewed, is like owning a bank account.
“You can use it to save money and makes you more disciplined about spending. In our case, if we really need cash for our needs, we need to go to an ATM machine to withdraw it,” she said.
Given the continuing onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baidido said it was convenient that they no longer have to physically queue to receive the cash assistance since the digital card was issued to them early this year.
Instead of lining up to get the money, a text message will inform them that the cash assistance has already been transferred to their Paymaya accounts, she added.
We can withdraw the cash assistance at our own convenience, Baidido said.
She said that, like the other project participants, they used the money to buy food and medicines.
SUPPA is a project that not only saves lives, improves disaster preparedness and decreases the vulnerability of highly at-risk communities in urban areas in Mindanao, it also teaches its recipients about personal finance and saving.