MANILA, Philippines – The Blockchain Association of the Philippines (BAP) has been established, announced its chairman, Justo Ortiz, at a press event held on Monday, May 21. Ortiz is also the chairman of Unionbank.
Blockchain – the underlying technology behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the countless other cryptocurrencies right now – has been seen as one of the most important emerging technologies today. Its disruptive potential is often compared to that of the World Wide Web, invented in 1989 by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee.
While Berners-Lee's invention revolutionized the way society accessed information and communicated, blockchain is being seen as a way to change the way society uses currency to store value and trade for goods. Instead of having a central bank act as a keeper of records, blockchain uses a network of computers, owned by the end users themselves, to record transactions in a decentralized ledger.
The prime objective of the BAP is to "provide entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and fintech professionals the information and guidance needed to implement this new technology effectively in their respective businesses."
In popular culture, blockchain is primarily understood through the lens of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies whose values skyrocketed in late 2017 before tapering in 2018. Its allure was primarily – and dangerously – an investment option that promised quick riches for anyone with enough traditional money to buy a Bitcoin.
At its peak, Bitcoin traded for nearly $20,000 apiece. So huge was the hype for Bitcoin during its tremendous rise that one family even reported selling everything they had for Bitcoin. Currently, Bitcoin's value hovers at around half of what it was during its peak.
Like most emerging technologies, blockchain isn't always clearly understood, as evidenced by the buying frenzy a few months ago. The stated goal of the BAP, an organization helmed by the banking sector, is to enhance people's understanding of the technology, with the goal of eventually increasing adoption among stakeholders.
Ramon de Vera, head of Unionbank's Fintech Business Group, spoke on why they believe change must come: "The legacy systems of banking have kept a lot of companies siloed because it was designed precisely for financial exclusion which is the great injustice."
The BAP also hopes to assimilate blockchain for small and medium enterprise (SME) financing, saying that it will be crucial to the growth of the sector in the Philippines.
Mario Fetalino III, founder and CEO of Acudeen Technologies Pte Ltd, also spoke on blockchain use for accessible SME financing, underscoring the technology's crucial role in the growth of small- and medium-scale businesses here in the Philippines.
At the press event, Unionbank's Project i2i was also launched – a blockchain-powered transaction and payment system that seeks to "connect rural banks into the country's main financial network," according to the BAP.
Ortiz believes that the program can promote "inclusive prosperity for 35 million unbanked in the country." (READ: Majority of Filipinos still have no bank account – World Bank)
"While the Philippine economy is growing at a rapid rate, data suggests that it is not felt by the majority of Filipinos, particularly the unbanked," he noted.
The BAP will formally be launched at the Blockchain Applications and Economics Forum 2018, running from May 28 to 30 at the SMX Convention Center Aura. The forum aims to increase the general understanding of the blockchain technology, and its impact on businesses. – Rappler.com