THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has warned the public against putting soap, alcohol, bleach and other chemicals to banknotes or bills as it is an “act of mutilation or destruction of Philippine currency” and not of disinfection.

This, as several reports of citizens allegedly “disinfecting” their bills in the hope of killing the coronavirus make rounds online.

“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, bills are supposed to be considered dirty since they are repeatedly being passed on from person to person. The safest way of disinfecting is still washing of one’s hands,” said BSP Cebu bank officer Hazel Cultura.

Under Presidential Decree 247, anyone who is caught defacing, mutilating, tearing, burning or destroying of central bank notes and coins can be fined not more than P20,000 and/or by imprisoned for not more than five years.

Cultura said this is the reason that the central bank is pushing for cashless transactions through electronic payments during these crucial times. She said banks have waived their fund transfer fees to help consumers cope with the economic impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“We have to take advantage of this,” she said.

The BSP is targeting a 20 percent increase in the users of digital payment systems.

“We are encouraging the use of online banking, e-money services, electronic fund transfer facilities like PesoNet and Instapay to avoid face-to-face transaction and the spread of the virus,” the BSP said in a statement.

Sound, stable banking

Meanwhile, the BSP assured the public of its continued service in terms of cash withdrawals to ensure the sufficiency of the cash requirements of consumers, businesses and the economy in these times of ECQ.

“The BSP reassures the public that the country’s banking system remains sound and stable. The financial services, although limited, continue to be available during the extended ECQ,” the central bank said. It added that it is in constant coordination with banks to ensure that transactions in branches, ATMs, check clearing and other banking activities remain unhampered.