By: Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat (Manila Bulletin) – May 28, 2018

Up to 21 offshore fintech (financial technology) firms engaged in blockchain and cryptocurrency operations have already signed up with the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) and which could bring in P2 billion in fresh investments in the freeport, according to Secretary Raul L. Lambino.

“They could bring in fresh investments of up to P2 billion in the next two years,” said Lambino, who is also CEZA administrator, in a statement.

Lambino is positioning the Freeport, the jewel of Cagayan Valley, to become the “FinTech City” or the “Silicon Valley” of Asia.

In a statement, Lambino gave assurances the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) would be a haven for the first offshore companies to locate in this Northern Luzon enclave he is developing into a financial technology (Fintech) solutions and blockchain hub.

Speaking during last week’s Fintech summit, labelled “New Venture in the Valley Unfolds,” Lambino sketched a “technological garden” nestled at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and within walking distance of the finest beaches in the 54,000-hectare CSEZFP.

“We have a perfect setting for some of the young Filipino generation’s best minds and the world’s leading cryptocurrency companies to engage in the development of the next wave of technological innovations,” said Lambino.

“The best of nature and of cutting-edge technology will combine to bring about a new hub in Asia for the world’s leaders in the burgeoning global currency of the future,” he said.

Since being named to his post in July last year, Lambino has made infrastructure buildup his priority in this economic zone dominated by Port Irene, which is strategically positioned to become an international gateway in the Northern Pacific.

The development of a new multi-lane expressway and possibly a railway that will link the gateway and the international airport in Lal-lo town would catalyze the economic zone’s development, Lambino said.

The offshore Fintech and blockchain developers that have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CEZA will operate virtual currency exchanges, engage in crypto mining and blockchain production, and initial coin offerings, among others.

Their expected investments include $1-million committed for physical infrastructure by each firm aside from the application fees, license fees, probity checks and integration fees in the sprawling facility.

Lambino assured the locators of a steady stream of Filipino manpower they need for their business operations as the development of the first Fintech University is also in the pipeline.

Xin Peng Group, Changwei International Co., Ltd., and State Trust Union Capital Holdings, all Hong Kong-based Chinese offshore companies, led the first enrollees that had jampacked the launching of the CEZA-organized Fintech summit.

The others are Ultra Precise Investments Ltd., Hachiman Technology Sdn. Bhd., MX Exchange Ventures, Hybrid Block, IPE Global Pte. Ltd., Superieur Tech. Pte. Ltd., Coin Bundle, Northern Orient Resources, Inc., Asia Premier International Ltd., Hong Kong Yuen Shing Hong Ltd., Mobile Pole Position Pte. Ltd., Madison Blockchain Strategy Investment Company Ltd., Asia Pacific Blockchain Association, Pacificnet Strategic Investments Ltd., Super Angels Ventures Ltd., AXN Holdings Ltd., Paradigm Technologies Unlimited Solutions Corp. and Stepwyze LLC.

Hanwha Group of South Korea, one of the leading blockchain developers whose interests include aerospace development, energy, construction and financer, also inked an MOU with CEZA.

LR Data of the First Cagayan Leisure and Resorts Corp., IP Ventures and I-Wave will provide the technical requirements of the Fintech companies while Arthaland, a smart and green building property developer in BGC, will serve as the Fintech laboratory.

Lambino said he believes that working with virtual currency companies would give the Philippines “momentum in providing an environment that encourages financial innovation and inclusion, while ensuring adequate protection for the best interests of the country, the financial system, consumers, and investors.”

He added, “This new development aims to drive the economy by creating employment opportunities and boosting job growth.”

Boosting CEZA’s venture of CEZA is the entry of Union Bank, the Philippines’ 9th largest bank based on assets.

The bank is one of the first local institutions of scale that has the first direct blockchain payment system for businesses called Visa B2B Connect.