By Herminia S. Jacinto
I JUST read an article in one of the newspapers where the columnist said, "Six years is too long for a bad president but too short for a good one." This statement has been said many times referring to leadership of a government office or even private companies and can very well be said also about the Insurance commissioner, Dennis V. Funa. The insurance commissioner, who is appointed by the president of the Philippines, has a fixed term of six years without reappointment and shall serve until his successor shall have been appointed or qualified per Section 437 of the Insurance Code of the Philippines. Commissioner Dennis V. Funa's term as insurance commissioner would have ended last Dec. 31, 2022 but since no successor has been appointed, he is in holdover position. He ends his term with flying colors despite the pandemic and the various disastrous events that occurred during those six years.
It was during his term that the worst epidemic that can happen in a country, the Covid-19, came and almost caused a standstill in our lives. When the lockdowns were imposed, the government offices like the Insurance Commission, had to immediately find ways to render the much needed public service without causing harm to their employees. Fortunately, the Insurance Commission's operations were already computerized and they could continue with the service to the public. Computerization was started in the term of Commissioner Funa and was well on its way to completion. They hit the ground running, so to speak! Services like renewal of licenses of agents and insurance companies, payment of benefits and claims continued like business as usual. Indeed, this was the time when the presence of the Insurance Commission was reassuring.
We looked at some important numbers to find out how the insurance industry performed during the tenure of Commissioner Funa. We have gathered some statistics for the last five years — 2017 to 2021. The 2022 numbers are not yet available. The premium growth was 43.88 percent, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.52 percent. Growth rate in 2021 was the highest since 2017 at 21.01 percent. Benefits payments had a higher growth rate of 51.13 percent or an average of 10.88 percent. This attests to the reliability of the insurance industry amidst the challenges of Covid-19 which trampled people's lives, health and properties. Insurance penetration (premiums as a percentage to GDP) increased from 1.57 percent in 2017 to 1.93 percent in 2021. Total assets amounted to 2.09 trillion, with an unprecedented growth rate of 33.14 percent. Most notable is the 88 percent of these total assets are in invested assets. The public need not worry about the stability of the insurance industry.
Commissioner Funa will leave a strong and resilient insurance industry whose performance was happily tested by the challenges during his tenure. We would have wished for him to stay longer and continue with the winning streak, but the law has to be complied with. A lawyer by profession and still young, he will certainly find a place in both public and private sectors. We will miss him and his easy and calm demeanor. He makes time to listen to the problems and issues brought to his office by various people or insurance associations, even claimants. Of course, these cases are promptly delegated for the attention of the appropriate officer in the commission, but it warms a claimant's heart that the commissioner agreed to see him and listened.
Part of the responsibility of being an insurance commissioner is to have a very good relationship with the leaders of the insurance industries of other countries, especially the Asean. This is not an easy task because the travels would require several days of continuous meetings not to mention the rigors of travel. I have been fortunate to have joined him and his team in some of these Asean meetings and I can not recall any time where he was not smiling every time we would meet each other in those conference rooms.
We will miss you Commissioner Funa, but we hope to see you in future events of the industry. We enjoyed working with you! Salamat po sa six years (nine years for me since he joined the commission as head of legal department) na masayang samahan!
Thanks to the January 23 issue of the Philippine Star where I got the statistics.