THE sight of a three-year-old kid happily holding a gleaming coin is amusing to behold. While the very young consider shiny, clanking coins as the only true form of money, we know that just a few years later, cash for them would take the form of crisp bills.

In our present society, coins are usually considered as “mabigat” and “hassle.” For many Filipinos, being given coins as sukli (change) would often entail irritated sighs and groans.

As a result of this mentality, coins are usually left at home—scattered on top of the refrigerator, hiding inside the cabinet, peeping behind the figurines—gathering dust and forgotten.

While most of us think nothing of this, much is actually at stake when we refuse or forget to use these coins.

Coins are very important. They are meant to be used in ordinary, everyday transactions -- as change and for use in the purchase of lower-priced goods.

If the five-centavo coin were not around, for example, businessmen would round prices off to the next higher value. A commodity which should only cost P1.95 would then be sold at P2.00. Thus, coins play a significant role in helping keep prices down!

Unfortunately, BSP managing director Pedro Tordilla Jr., who heads the BSP Regional Monetary Affairs Sub-Sector, has noted that despite the annual production of coins, a large part of these fail to circulate in the market, resulting in a significant shortage in some parts of the country.

Tordilla said there are many reasons behind this perennial problem.

The habit of keeping coins at home is probably the foremost cause of the shortage.

“We always encourage the public to use their coins,” Tordilla said, adding that a few years back, the BSP launched a coin recirculation program involving schoolchildren to educate Filipinos on the importance of using them.

While the value of saving (pag-iimpok) should be taught to young Filipinos to instill in them the habit of saving for the future, they should be informed that pag-iimpok does not only mean keeping one’s coins in piggy banks.

Filipino children should learn from their parents and teachers that pag-iimpok also means taking care of one’s things, and more importantly, taking care of one’s health to prevent unnecessary and avoidable expenses.

Furthermore, the BSP also stressed the importance of avoiding the habit of keeping coins inside piggy banks for a long period of time. Parents should encourage and accompany their kids to the bank to deposit these coins.

Tordilla said that another challenge in the recirculation of coins is the time it takes for many charitable institutions to retrieve the donations inside special tin cans usually seen beside cashiers in supermarkets and department stores.

As much as possible, the BSP official said, coins should not be left sitting in one place for long.

The central monetary authority has also noted that while there has been a shortage of coins in some parts of the country, there has also been an “oversupply” in others.

Curiously, coins, usually in P1, P5 and P10 denominations, tend to be concentrated in places where illegal gambling, such as jueteng or similar numbers games, reputedly proliferates.

The BSP's Mint Refinery and Operations Department, headed by Dr. Paterson Encabo, reports that it takes about half a year, and several millions of pesos, to mint a fresh supply of coins.

There is a need, therefore, to educate the public regarding the importance of coin recirculation.

As Dr. Encabo stressed: “If we start recirculating coins, we will reduce coin production. By reducing production, not only are we helping the government save on minting and labor costs, we are also helping the environment in the long run.” (To be continued)

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