Philippines Utilizes Blockchain for Retail Government Bonds
On Sunday, UnionBank launched an app “bonds.ph” that leverages blockchain and allows customers to purchase retail treasury bonds (RTBs) issued by the Philippines Bureau of the Treasury (BTr). This is the 24th RTB issue since 2001 to promote financial literacy and for the unbanked to open a bank account and to save and invest.
However, the new bond app doesn’t overpower buyers to open a bank account. They can deposit money by UnionBank and through several other apps, including PayMaya, which has a network of 40,000 associates where users can deposit cash.
“The launch of Bonds.PH paves the way for all Filipinos, particularly the unbanked, to easily and affordably invest in the BTr’s newest retail treasury bond, RTB-24,” said Rosalia V. De Leon, National Treasurer, according to the Inquirer. Nevertheless, the bonds.ph app is a pilot solution being run alongside the regular distribution routes, which include online purchases at the Treasury website and over the counter at various banking outlets.
For the blockchain aspect, UnionBank associated with the central bank regulated Philippines Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX), a cryptocurrency exchange. Blockchain is used as an immutable record-keeping mechanism but adjacent to the conventional bond registry. PDAX CEO Nichel Gaba said that blockchain was also used to “automate payments, enforce rules, and facilitate complex transactions via smart contracts at little to no cost,” according to the Inquirer.
While the target may be unbanked with a minimum investment equivalent to $100, this is very much a fundraising exercise for the government with an issue of 192.7 billion Philippine peso ($3.9 billion). The Treasury is doing roadshows for the diaspora across the globe. This is one of the first retail treasury bond issues that leverage blockchain. Yet soon, Thailand is also anticipated to issue a retail savings bond utilizing blockchain, if it hasn’t done so already.
For UnionBank and its fintech subsidiary UBX, this is by no means its first blockchain initiative. Two years ago, it helped rural banks that don’t have access to the Philippine Clearing House to speed up interbank payments using blockchain. It also teamed up with the Chino-Singapore firm OneConnect intending to launch a smart lending platform. Plus, it has trialed tokenized cross border payments.
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