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Government to tap Alibaba to lower remit costs

The government is considering tapping Chinese technology giant Alibaba’s fintech (financial technology) solutions through its related company Ant Financial to lower remittance costs for the Philippines’ over 10 million migrant workers and offer them other online-based banking and financial management services.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Ant Financial’s low-cost mobile payment technology that has helped China attain financial inclusion for its small home-based enterprises can be tapped to help OFWs send money back home and prudently manage their finances.

The Overseas Filipinos Bank (OFB) based in Manila can be the launching pad for this online payment platform, Dominguez said.

OFB was launched last month by President Duterte–in keeping with his 2016 campaign promise–to cater to the financial needs of not only OFWs but other foreign-based Filpinos as well.

“There are over 10 million Filipinos working abroad, Ant Financial’s technology is helpful for them. The technology can help them manage their cash, their earnings wisely,” said Dominguez during the second day of the Alibaba Business School’s New Economy workshop held at its campus here for visiting Philippine government officials and representatives from the business sector.

The workshop was organized following the invitation last year of Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma for Dominguez and other Philippine officials to learn more about Alibaba’s digital infrastructure for e-commerce. Eric Jing, the CEO of the Ant Financial Services Group, said his company would be more than willing to partner with the Philippines to bring inclusive financial services to OFWs and as well as other individuals and Small-and Medium-sized enterprises.

“We are excited to partner with you. Together we can launch a variety of services for the OFWs,” said Jing during the open forum following his lecture on how Ant Financial had used digital technology to help attain financial inclusion for China’s small businesses and bring the world equal opportunities.

In his lecture, Jing said Ant Financial was able to reach out to 40 million offline small and medium enterprises in China to help them access financial services at low costs while ensuring that they are protected and secured in conducting online transactions. Bill Wang, head of the Alibaba Group’s All-Countryside Business Unit, said Ant Financial’s fintech services can also benefit rural-based entrepreneurs and help farmers and village-based enterprises gain access to low-interest credit and expand their links to competitive markets.

“By partnering with the (Chinese) government, Alibaba has enabled more of these (rural) consumers to build their own businesses and participate in the global marketplace,” Wang said. As part of the workshop, the Philippine delegation led by Dominguez also visited the Hema Store here to demonstrate Alibaba’s “New Retail” model that leverages technology and consumer insights to seamlessly integrate online and offline commerce.

They also visited the Hangzhou Subway where commuters do not need to bring cash or subway cards to ride the trains, but only need to swipe their smartphones to get in and out of the station gates.

Alibaba officials also showed the Philippine delegation its unmanned restaurant here, the Wufangzhai, where customers order by scanning QR codes, and independently pick up and clear away their meals before paying with their smartphones.

Dominguez, along with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Maria Almasara Cyd Tuaño Amador, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Vivencio Dizon and other government officials and representatives from the Philippines’ business sector attended the Alibaba Business School’s three-day New Economy Workshop designed for them to gain a wider understanding of an e-commerce ecosystem, including the digital technologies that can be employed to improve the Philippines’ nascent online payment system in pursuit of inclusive growth.

According to Dominguez, the lectures prepared by Alibaba revolved “around the points discussed during my meeting with Jack Ma last November in Manila. This goes to show that the Duterte administration not only does meetings, but turns such meetings into opportunities for the country.”

On the first day of the workshop, Brian Wong, Alibaba Group’s vice president, said that like what China did, the Philippines can capitalize on the digital era by cultivating entrepreneurship in e-commerce and coming out with regulations supportive of digital trade and electronic payment systems.

The first day of the New Economy Workshop focused on lectures on e-commerce development in China, financial inclusion through digital finance, smart or data-based logistics and a case study on using an e-payment system with India as the model.

The New Economy Workshop for Philippine officials is the first overseas government training program organized by the Alibaba Business School.

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