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By: Liz Lagniton
MRO- Mandaluyong

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) recently hosted a web seminar on blockchain and financial technology (fintech) participated by the different Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) and hosted by the Board of Investments (BOI) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to educate and touch base with the members of the Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (PIPP) of the most basic principles, fundamentals, regulations and innovative-driven opportunities brought by the Financial Technology Industry.

Tasked to supervise the development of the special economic zone and freeport in Santa Ana, Cagayan, CEZA is driven by innovative ideas and fresh technologies and that included cryptocurrency and blockchain. Being located right along the major international shipping routes of the Northern Pacific and East Asia, CEZA offers not only the biggest economies in the region, but the world – a technological garden and a safe haven for the evolution of the world’s next wave of groundbreaking technological innovations.

In his opening keynote, Secretary Raul Lambino, CEZA Administrator and Chief Executive Officer welcomed all the participants and organizers who have joined the virtual conference and discussed what the future holds for cryptocurrency and blockchain which according to him is still very much in question.

“No one can predict with a reasonable degree of certainty what lies ahead for these financial innovations of the last decade. The truth is, some experts, including powerful and influential men and women of our age, have expressed opinions regarding their future that opposed diametrically to each other,” Secretary Lambino said.

But he cited some events in the past few months that gave a boost for this technology like when Elon Musk’s Tesla purchased $1.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency as part of initiatives to invest in alternative assets, such as digital currencies and gold bullion.

In February, Tesla, which engaged in the development of electric cars, announced that it would soon start to accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for cars in the United States, and will retain Bitcoin in its treasury, “in what must be regarded as a vote of confidence in the cryptocurrency.”

“Even though the value of bitcoin has seesawed between then and this month, the future of the cryptocurrency is beginning to crystallize,” Sec. Lambino said adding that it is no longer a matter of dispute that it has made a mark in the world’s financial circle, prompting institutional investors to say that bitcoin is an alternative to gold and the dollar.

In 2018, Secretary Raul Lambino made a huge bet on cryptocurrency after CEZA initiated its financial technology program named Crypto Valley of Asia, to attract financial technology and cryptocurrency companies to push the limits of how these tools of innovation can impact global finance.

To date, 26 fintech firms have registered as principal licensees in CEZA that are set to start their offshore operations this year.

“The shift towards a digital economy has accelerated its pace since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.” the Secretary said adding that among unforeseen tragic effects is its impact on the global economy. “It is a world-transforming event,” he added.

“This might seem a small insignificant step, but we must realize that we are in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape or reduce our experience,” said Sec. Lambino, referring to the webinar on blockchain and fintech hosted by the agency.

Meanwhile, Atty. Mike Gerald David, Spokesperson for fintech and virtual currency, presented Fintech 101: The Foundation on Blockchain and Financial Technology. He discussed a variety of topics that have covered fintech and blockchain’s background, industry acceptance, situation, and regulation in Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines.

Atty. David’s presentation offered valuable insights to representatives of participating agencies including CEZA officials and employees.

In his presentation, David said cryptocurrency in the country is yet to be used in general commerce and is seen to be more of an alternative form of electronic money and not a security.

CEZA Deputy Administrator PCSUPT. Agrimero Cruz Jr., (Ret.) said the agency intends to make the online event the first of a series of webinars on fintech and CEZA as it promotes the adoption and integration of financial technology in the country.

“With big tech words like blockchain, cryptocurrency, and distributed ledger, I have to admit that it can be overwhelming at times. Not only because of its complexities of the speed of its adaptation but also due to the vastness of its possibilities,” Cruz said in his closing remarks.

For his part, Cruz said he would like to think of blockchain as a new ecosystem of transactions for the future. “A vast ecosystem where inhabitants can embrace diverse roles. With fresh opportunities are abundant and the fortuity for collaboration is ripe.” 

The Deputy Administrator likewise said that the strength of blockchain and cryptocurrency is correlated to the span of its network. “We at CEZA embrace this philosophy as we invite you all to explore with us the numerous opportunities for collaboration in financial technology.”

The webinar was moderated by Gabriel Lingan, Business Development and Marketing Chief with the participation of representatives from different Investment Promotion Agencies.  (with inputs from Michelle S. Agabin- MRO Head Mandaluyong)


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