Philippine Bureau of the Treasury is among Asia’s pioneers in leveraging Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) for bond distribution

The Philippine Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), together with Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) and the Philippine Digital Asset Exchange (PDAX) – a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) licensed entity, is the first in Asia to launch an app for the distribution of government bonds enabled by Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

Philippine Bureau of the Treasury is among Asia’s pioneers in leveraging Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) for bond distribution

National Treasurer Rosalia V. De Leon said, “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. The mobile app presents a compelling opportunity for all to invest and help the Republic raise funds for economic recovery and COVID-19 response.”

Bonds.PH makes bond investing easy. It’s completely digital and available 24/7. Filipinos can invest in retail treasury bonds by downloading the app and pay, for as low as PHP 5,000.00, using InstaPay, GCash, Paymaya, and digital as well as over-the-counter at UnionBank.

Treasurer De Leon, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and UnionBank Vice Chair Justo Ortiz onsite, together with BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua virtually, did a demo of the Bonds.PH app at the official launch held yesterday.

“This is the first retail treasury bond issuance to leverage on blockchain technology – in Asia, and likely the world,” said Edwin R. Bautista, UnionBank President and CEO. “The Philippines is ready to lead the way into the future and tech up the nation with innovative, inclusive opportunities, powered by emerging technologies, for the benefit of all Filipinos.”

Bonds.PH is blockchain-enabled as transactions are recorded in a DLT-based registry in addition to the existing NROSS system. DLT enables immutable and tamper-proof record-keeping as it is recorded on the blockchain.

According to Nichel Gaba, Founder and CEO of PDAX – a fintech investment of UBX (a UnionBank subsidiary), “DLT or blockchain technology is governance by design with its cryptography and programmable smart contracts. This advantage allows the blockchain not only to preserve truth, but also to automate payments, enforce rules, and facilitate complex transactions via smart contracts at little to no cost.”

As such, DLT reduces manual verification and simplifies reconciliation bringing down processing time and costs. This is why the BTr sanctioned the pioneering effort so that through the pilot it can determine if leveraging DLT makes retail treasury bond distribution to the unbanked feasible and economically viable.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) commended the groundbreaking endeavor.

“I want to congratulate the Philippine Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) for this important milestone,” said MAS Chief FinTech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty.

He added that, “2020 will be the year of commercialization of blockchain technology in the ASEAN region, and BTr’s efforts to build a DLT registry for bond issuance accelerates the success of the most exciting technology of our time. The blockchain community in Singapore will work together with the Philippines to share learnings, open-source resources and also facilitate connecting corresponding nodes to integrate market infrastructure for transparency and interoperability. The recently released Project Ubin Phase 5 findings by MAS will facilitate the creation of robust blockchain rails for future value creation.”

Chia Hock Lai, Co-Chairman of the Blockchain Association Singapore (BAS) and Chairman of the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) said BAS and SFA are one with the MAS in fully supporting the Philippines and UnionBank in utilizing blockchain for financial inclusion.

The Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) likewise offered its support.

“With our mandate to facilitate financial inclusion while maintaining investor protection, we support this initiative, which makes use of Distributed Ledger Technology,” said SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis B. Amatong. “We look forward to the results from this initiative, which will contribute greatly to future DLT use cases for capital markets,” he added. The Philippine SEC is among the more progressive regulators in the world having released rules on crowdfunding, as well as draft rules on digital assets and digital exchanges.

Meanwhile, the BSP lauded the initiative for its impact on inclusive prosperity, “Given our advocacy to accelerate the digital delivery of financial services while deepening financial inclusion, we view Bonds.PH as a welcome addition to the expanding suite of available financial products serving wide market segments via innovative delivery channels and bridging the financially excluded,” said BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno.

“From the basic easing of the public’s access to transaction accounts to now this offering of retail treasury bonds to the masses in a simplified yet secure manner, shows the remarkable progress of our shared financial inclusion agenda. This surely marks the transition of blockchain technology from its buzzword status to a feasible, production grade solution capable of democratizing access to digital financial services,” said the Central Bank Chief.

“We look forward to the expansive adoption and success of this initiative and the public can always count on the BSP to remain supportive of responsible digital financial innovations,” he added.

UnionBank Vice Chair Ortiz, who also serves as Chairman of the Distributed Ledger Technology Association of the Philippines (DLTAP) and the Philippine Payments Management, Inc. (PPMI) added that, “Democratizing investment through digital channels and Distributed Ledger Technology allows all Filipinos to contribute to and accrue the benefits of nation building. Every Aling Belen and Mang Juan can save and invest. Download Bonds.PH now from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and invest in our country!”

Understanding Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology finds its origin in the digital coin named Bitcoin. It was invented primarily to sustain it. Although blockchain is tightly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, these are just the top of the iceberg.

Blockchain technology finds its origin in the digital coin named Bitcoin. It was invented primarily to sustain it

Currently, blockchain technology is being used in other commercial applications, and annual growth of 51% is expected for 2022 in several markets, including financial institutions and Internet of Things (IoT).

What is blockchain technology, and what makes it secure?

A blockchain is a list of digital records or blocks of data that are stored in a linear chain that is constantly growing. It´s a kind of digital general ledger than can be shared with many users and that keeps record of every transaction. Each block contains encrypted data, for instance of a Bitcoin transaction, and is linked to the specific user that made it. There´s no way to alter the data in them since they are time-stamped and connected to the previous block.

The security of blockchain relies on the fact that it can be updated only with the agreement of all the participants and the system itself. 

The information of the whole chain is kept in each node, so each participant has an exact copy of the entire chain. If someone wanted to attack the service, he should overturn or nullify every node in the net given that just one operative node is enough for all the information to be available. 

As new records are created, these are verified and validated by the nodes and added to a new block that is linked to the chain. Once added, this block becomes unalterable. For a transaction to be accepted and added, some specific digital signatures or requirements must be met. For example, people that use the crypto-currency Ethereum, must meet several conditions to demonstrate that they have that crypto-currency and can operate with it. 

Why is blockchain useful for?

As it is a peer-to-peer network, where transactions are time-stamped, and that enables managing all the information exchange among the users in an autonomous way, without the need for an administrator, it is an excellent tool for all types of businesses. Any information that needs to be kept intact and available can be safely stored in a blockchain. 

Many industries, such as transport, fintech, and sanitary services, to mention just a few, are taking advantage of this technology that streamlines processes, improving productivity. 

Challenges organizations or companies could face with blockchain

Thanks to blockchain, the operative models and business-making models of the companies and organizations could undergo a total transformation with the adoption of blockchain technology. Many organizations are using blockchain technology for their transactions. Still, if it were massively adopted, one of the challenges that governments of extremely controlled sectors will have to solve is the lack of regulation.

Blockchain is complex, and it takes a longer time to process any transaction. It can take hours to complete a transaction. And the more it grows, the slower it gets. This could be an obstacle for specific industries.

Despite the above, the biggest challenge that blockchain technology faces is the reluctance of private and public sectors, along with the skepticism of the potential users who, as with each new technology, need time to learn, get used, and trust.  

See also about Modern Monetary Theory and Internet of People – IoP