Paper Money

Philippines ready to issue new controversial polymer note

The endangered Philippine eagle was chosen for new polymer 1,000-pisa as a symbol of strength and freedom.

Images courtesy of The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipina.

After months of controversy, the Philippines’ new 1,000-piso note, the nation’s first made out of polymer, was revealed to the public by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 5 and was to be introduced in phases commencing April 18.

The new issue will circulate along side its abaca-based paper predecessor that is of a different design and the cause of the dispute.

The old paper bank note is a call to Philippine patriotism, with the portraits of former Chief Justice José Abad Santos; Josefa Llanes Escoda, a civic worker and one of the founders of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines; and Vicente Lim, an army general and the first Filipino graduate of West Point. They are all heroes of the resistance against the Japanese occupation of World War II.

The new one focuses on Philippine flora and fauna. The face has the Philippine eagle, and in a clear window, the sampaguita, the national flower symbolic of purity, simplicity, humility, and strength. A scene of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a South Sea pearl, and a traditional T’nalak weave design appear on the back.

The central bank’s deputy governor Mamerto Tangonan explained, “We chose to focus on the Philippine eagle being an endangered species and one of the largest and most powerful birds of prey that is native to the Philippines, as representative, again of the strength and freedom of the Filipino character.”

He also made an extensive and convoluted effort at damage control against charges from historians, veterans, abaca paper industry figures, and others. No historians were consulted, he said, because no new historical element was added to the new notes. Then he stated that they also were not needed because, he said, “We are not going to cease the current circulation of the P1,000 banknote featuring the images of our three great heroes. So this will continue to get circulated.”

He added that the importance of the heroes would not decrease because they are not on this bank note, and that they might appear again in the future because note design is cyclical. He then also said: “Whether ... images appear on bank notes or not, it cannot diminish the greatness of their heroic deeds. They paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, in the service of the Filipino people, and for that we are forever grateful. So, perhaps one of the best ways we can memorialize their heroism is by emulating their lives of service to the people.”

He also said, in response to comments on social media, that there are no plans to redesign any of the other denominations.

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