The Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) program is an initiative designed to accelerate national economic transformation by encouraging the Philippine rural banking industry to significantly expand access to microfinance services. To do so, the MABS Program assists partner rural banks in the Philippines to increase the financial services they provide to the microenterprises, small farmers, and low-income households by providing microfinance technical assistance and training. Trained banks in turn develop and improve financial services – loans, deposits, money transfer services – specially tailored to microenterprises, small farmers, and low-income households. Under the program rural banks are encouraged and assisted to develop and offer new and innovative products and services such as micro-agri and micro-housing loans, to utilize technology such as mobile phone banking to lower costs and improve efficiency of their operations, and to work with partner insurance service providers to develop and offer appropriate micro-insurance products to their clients.
Since its inception in 1998, the MABS Program has helped provide training to the more than 650 RBAP member rural banks in the Philippines.
Rural and cooperative rural banks provide financial services to over 85% of the municipalities and cities of the Philippines. These banks are culturally and geographically close to the potential clients that comprise the microenterprise sector. It has been shown that limited access to financial services constrains economic growth in the Philippines. This is especially true for lower socio-economic groups, including microenterprises, which must turn to moneylenders, pawnshops or lending investors for credit instead of formal institutions for credit. The MABS Program targets these lower socio-economic groups and microentrepreneurs by working with rural banks to reach such groups in a profitable, but equitable, manner.
The Program is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and is being implemented in partnership with the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP). Philippine Government oversight of the Program is provided by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
The MABS Program has become a successful model for increasing microenterprises’ access to financial services and servicing poor clients in rural areas of the Philippines. MABS Service Providers (MSPs), private consulting firms that have been trained by the Program and accredited by RBAP, are presently providing MABS technical services and training to rural banks on a fee basis.