As of recently, five banks in the Philippines agreed to pilot a real-time retail payments system on a blockchain which will be developed by the Ethereum startup known as Consensys.
Obviously, the aim of this mission is to further the financial inclusion and bring around 35 unbanked Filipinos into the financial system. For that reason, the Union Bank of the Philippines has picked five rural banks in Mindanao – which is the second largest island in the country – for a pilot of the technology that will test real-time and cheaper retail payments.
The project is dubbed ‘Project i2i’ which refers to island-to-island, institution-to-institution, and individual-to-individual. In it, Union Bank says the initiative is to connect rural banks to the country’s main financial network.
Currently, rural banks function as financial facilitators in areas that are out of reach from the country’s financial system. The banking institutions are not members of Bancnet (which is the country’s interbank network) and they don’t belong to the Philippines Clearing House.
In a nutshell, Project i2i will connect the rural banks with the country’s primary banking network and put them on a level playing field. As the operations chief of the bank, Henry Aguda said during an interview:
“If you are a rural bank, you’re not connected to Bancnet and you’re not connected to SWIFT. In order for you to connect to them you have to spend on data center, cyber security infrastructure, so it’s very expensive,”
Aguda also said that the bank had invested $3 million in Project i2i, adding:
“With this [blockchain platform], they don’t have to spend anything. They just have to load the application i2i in their computers, tablets, or smartphones then they can transact bank-to-bank connected to blockchain.”
The plans are to rope in more than 100 banks from the rural landscape before 2018 ends. The partnership with the Consensys startup involves the entreprise-ready blockchain software named Kaleido which is a service platform launched by Consensys in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) earlier this month.
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