Are other Philippine banknotes also up for a redesign?

Ralf Rivas

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Are other Philippine banknotes also up for a redesign?
Featuring plants and animals on peso bills 'will demonstrate our pride and distinction as a people and a nation,' according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are speculating that other banknotes are up for a redesign, following the erasure of World War II heroes from the upcoming P1,000 polymer banknotes.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recently announced that portraits of Josefa Llanes Escoda, Vicente Lim, and Jose Abad Santos will not be featured in the new P1,000 banknotes. Instead, they will be replaced by the Philippine eagle.

In an emailed statement on Saturday, December 11, the BSP said that “this is the first note in a new series of Philippine currency that will focus on the country’s rich flora and fauna.”

“Will all the banknotes be flora and fauna?” reporters asked Diokno on Monday, December 13.

Instead of a categorical answer, Diokno said: “The BSP will issue [the] P1,000 polymer banknote next year, around April or May, for purposes of test circulation. By then, we will be able to validate the benefits of polymer reported by other countries.”

Diokno went on to say that other countries which use polymer banknotes reported that these were more durable and cost-efficient.

He added that “heroes will remain heroes whether they are in the notes or not.”

So far, we know that:

  • The BSP will issue 500 million pieces of P1,000 polymer bills from 2022 to 2025. The first batch will arrive around April or May 2022.
  • The polymer banknotes will “coexist” with the paper banknotes with the national heroes’ faces.
  • The BSP will continue to print the P1,000 paper banknotes, even as it circulates the P1,000 polymer banknotes with the Philippine eagle. 
  • The P1,000 made of paper will not be demonetized under Diokno’s watch.
  • The National Historical Commission of the Philippines denied that it was asked to approve the new design of the polymer banknotes. The NHCP said any changes are simply the prerogative of the BSP and President Rodrigo Duterte.
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Why the Philippine eagle?

Diokno said the Philippine eagle “depicts strength and freedom of Filipinos,” as well as the “independence and clear vision of the BSP to achieve a better and more inclusive economy.”

The Philippine eagle was previously featured in the old 50-centavo coin, as well as the P500 commemorative coin.

Why flora and fauna?

Diokno said heroes and images of nature are both important for “cultural preservation and promoting our heritage, and changing themes are intended to accommodate and celebrate numismatic artistry and dynamism.”

“Like the heroes theme, the flora and fauna theme will demonstrate our pride and distinction as a people and a nation.”

Why not both?

The current Philippine bills already feature images of nature alongside heroes and political figures.

Abad Santos’ niece, author Desiree Ann Cua Benipayo, said the polymer banknotes should feature both, if the BSP really wanted to honor heroes and feature nature.

She proposed that the Philippine eagle be placed on the other side of the P1,000 bill.

Images are political

Benipayo also noted that the P1,000 banknote is the only bill which features martyrs, not politicians.

With the controversy surrounding the redesign, people have speculated that the P500 bill bearing the faces of democracy icons Ninoy and Cory Aquino could also be changed. Marcos loyalists have long proposed the change as well.

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Diokno already addressed that, saying the BSP Monetary Board has not discussed a new design for the P500 bill or a shift to polymer for this particular banknote.

Memes showing a P500 bill with a tarsier on it instead of the Aquinos have been circulating online. Those images were not released by the central bank. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.