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Scientific names on new peso bills written incorrectly

After receiving flak over geographical inaccuracies borne by the new set of peso bills, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) faces new criticism for the incorrect way the scientific names of featured wildlife are written on the new banknotes. For example, on the 200-peso bill, the tarsier’s scientific name was written as Tarsius Syrichta instead of the correct way, Tarsius syrichta. According to scientists, there are two errors: the scientific name was not italicized; and the second word in the name should not begin with a capital letter. Following scientific nomenclature rules, every living species is given a two-part name, with the first part the genus name and the second part the species name or epithet. Other wildlife featured on the bills with wrongly written scientific names: whale shark (butanding), giant trevally (maliputo), palm civet, blue-naped parrot, and south sea pearl. Birders have also pointed out that the Blue-naped Parrot, featured on the 500-peso bill, bears the wrong colors. Experts said the beak should be red and not yellow, while the tail should be yellow and not green. In an interview, BSP spokesperson Fe de la Cruz said some of the inaccuracies in the colors may have been a limitation of the colors in the overall design of the bill.
The endemic Blue-naped Parrot has a red beak. On the new 500-peso bill, its beak is yellow, raising an outcry among birders. Photo by Romy Ocon
Dr. Merab Chan, head of the Ateneo de Manila University's biology department, explained the guidelines in writing scientific names:
  • The first letter of the genus or generic name should be capitalized. The rest, including the whole of specific epithet, should be written in lower case. There should be a single space between the generic name and the specific epithet. For example: Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)
  • Use italics for generic name and specific epithet. When handwritten or using a typewriter with no italics, underline the words that should be italicized. For example: Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi or Pithecophaga jefferyi)
Chan said a mistake made on a national currency comprised a "very big mistake" and should be corrected immediately and before the bills are circulated. "They have to check things like that before putting it on our peso bills," she said. "They should have consulted and verified with a taxonomist first." "I think they need to change it before they circulate the new bills," she added. [Click here to see the new banknotes' designs.] GMANews.TV tried to get the reaction of the central bank to the nomenclature issue, but the BSP was not able to respond as of posting time. However, in an earlier interview, the BSP said it will make any necessary corrections in the next batch of bills that it will print. "It's a work in progress, ang paggawa namin ng pera (We consider the new bills a work in progress)," de la Cruz said. In a separate interview, BSP deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo said they will immediately correct the mistakes that can be corrected. "Isasaayos 'yan kung may pagkakamali (We will correct the mistakes)," he said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB. Geographically wrong The new Philippine peso bill designs were unveiled by the BSP on December 16. The new designs featured the same heroes but used younger photos. The most notable change on the obverse (front) side of the bills was found in the 500-peso bill: the new banknotes featured both former President Corazon Aquino and her husband Senator Ninoy Aquino. Older bills only featured the former senator. The reverse (back) sides of the bills now feature tourist sites like the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, the Banaue Rice Terraces, Taal Lake, the Mayon Volcano, Chocolate Hills, and the Tubbataha Reefs National Park. The design of the new bills was criticized for supposedly containing errors in the geographical depiction of sites like the Tubbataha Reefs and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park. The Batanes Islands, found at the country’s northernmost tip, had also been omitted from the illustration of the Philippine map found on the new bills. De la Cruz said the Batanes Islands were not included because there was not enough space. “Lahat ng komento ay iniipon namin, ie-evaluate at magkakaroon ng decision moving forward. Ang paggawa ng pera based sa plates, kung kailangan palitan, moving forward (We are collating and evaluating the criticisms about the new bills. Once we make the proper corrections we will implement them on the [printing] plates [for the next batch of bills to be printed.])," she said. PNoy: BSP made bills difficult to fake President Benigno Aquino III on Monday defended the new peso bills' supposed geographical errors, saying that the country's currency is "not a map" and "not a cartographer's sketch." "There is some degree of artistic license to it also," Aquino said. "If I want to find out about a particular area, I'll look for a map." The BSP focused more on the security features of the new bills, which will make counterfeiting more difficult, he said. "Gusto natin pahirapan na gawing fake yung bills. Matagal na yung mga designs. Yung advances in technology make it easier to duplicate bills that have been there in existence (We want the bills to be difficult to fake. The designs are old. Advances in technology make it easier to duplicate bills that have been in existence)," he said. Errors in BSP banknotes and coins In the past, the BSP circulated coins and banknotes that also had glaring mistakes on them. In 1983, the scientific name of the Philippine eagle was wrongly minted on a 50-centavo coin. The scientific name of the Philippine eagle is Pithecophaga jefferyi, but the central bank wrongly minted it as “Pithecobhaga jefferyi." A biologist pointed out the mistake and BSP quickly corrected the coins. In 2005, about 80 million 100-peso bills were printed with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's name misspelled as 'Arrovo'. Those bills now sell as collectors' items for as much as P1,000. Collectors may now be eyeing those yellow-beaked parrots, before the corrected bills make their beaks red again. - DM/HS/TJD, GMANews.TV