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BSP launches new banknotes

New peso bills have a Winnipeg connection

President Benigno Aquino III shows off the new Philippine banknote design during its launch at Malacañang Palace, December 16, 2010
(Photo by Ben Hur Arcayan / Malacañang Photo Bureau / PNA )

WINNIPEG – For the first time in 25 years the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) launched a new generation of Philippine banknotes on December 16, 2010. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco unveiled the new designs, which feature updated portraits of historical figures, new security measures and a Winnipeg connection.

The new 20-peso bill was put into circulation in late December while higher denominations will be released in the New Year.

The late President Cory Aquino's portrait has been added to the P500 bill, joining her husband, slain Senator Benigno Aquino, who is now shown with a smiling face. Along with the signature of current president Benigno Aquino Jr., this marks the first time that a husband, wife and son have all appeared on the same Philippine banknote.

Meanwhile, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was removed from the back of the P200 bill but now appears, though much smaller, on the front with her father, former president Diosdado Macapagal.

The BSP launched the redesign of all banknotes and coins three years ago. The Monetary Board of the BSP set up a committee in 2009 to make recommendations on the new designs. Members of the committee included BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, former governor Jaime C. Laya and Ambeth Ocampo, former chairman of the National Historical Commission and Pilipino Express contributor.

The front side of the six new bills still feature Manuel Quezon on the P20, Sergio Osmeña on the P50, Manuel Roxas on the P100, Macapagal on the P200, the Aquinos on the P500, and World War II heroes, Josefa Llanes Escoda, Vicente Lim, and Jose Abad Santos on the P1000 bill.

The reverse sides of all six bills have been redesigned to feature natural attractions and geography of the Philippines. The new coin designs will feature national symbols and will be introduced in the beginning of 2012. The previous generation of banknotes will remain legal tender for at least three years.


In the days following the official release of the new design, various social networks and Internet bloggers noted some apparent errors. Among the criticisms: the Island of Batanes is missing from the map of the Philippines, the locations of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Underground River Park and the Tubbataha Reef are misplaced, the beak and feathers of the blue-naped parrot are not coloured correctly and the scientific names of the animals featured on the reverse sides of all banknotes are also rendered incorrectly.

The BSP defended the new designs in a press release on December 21 saying that the map is “an artist’s rendition or abstraction … that cannot be expected to reflect all of our islands and the precise coordinates of each site.” The colour of the parrot, according to the press release, was due to the limitations of the BSP’s equipment, which is designed specifically for printing banknotes and not meant for full-colour printing.

Design Systemat and Studio 5 Designs were chosen from among the many groups that competed for the BSP design contracts.

The Winnipeg connection

While the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg has produced coins for the Philippine government in the past, it is the BSP’s Quezon City Security Plant Complex that produces Philippine banknotes, except on occasions when surges in currency demands require outsourcing. Still, the new generation of banknotes does have a Winnipeg connection. Among the new security features is a see-through image of the word “Pilipino” written in the pre-colonial baybayin script. The font chosen for the script was designed by the Pilipino Express’ own associate editor, Paul Morrow. (See photos below.)

“I was thrilled to find out that my own font design is on all the new bills,” said Morrow. “Most of my baybayin fonts are replicas of typefaces that were used in a few books from centuries ago but this one [called “Tagalog Stylized”] was based on my own handwriting. I designed it in 1992 specifically for modern computerized typography.” Morrow added that his fonts have been available on the Internet as free downloads since 1999.

The new generation of Philippine banknotes

Above: close up view of a see-through security feature. When held against a light source, the word “Pilipino,” written in the pre-colonial baybayin script, is revealed above the bill’s peso value. Below: the top half of the baybayin writing is shown in reverse on the backs of the bills. (Photos by Dr. Mary Margaret Que)

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