MANILA -- The country's banking sector is set to spawn its first blockchain-related organization, the Blockchain Association of the Philippines (BAP) next week.

The BAP will be led by Union Bank of the Philippines, one of the first enterprises in the country to integrate the blockchain system in its business operation. UnionBank Chairman Justo Ortiz will also chair the BAP.

The BAP will be launched during the Blockchain Applications and Economics Forum 2018 from May 28 to 30, which aims to educate Filipinos on blockchain application and opportunities.

Blockchain is a digital ledger with large network of entities where data is stored in “blocks” -- not in any single location -- that are continuously updated and are secured using cryptography. This technology is commonly associated with bitcoin, but it has many applications and can be used by different industries.

In a press conference Monday, Ortiz said there is a huge opportunities for blockchain technology in the country. He noted that educating Filipinos is critical for the growth of blockchain in the Philippines. UnionBank aims to have 25,000 blockchain programmers over the next two years, he said. Currently, the bank has 30 only blockchain programmers.

In the same event, UnionBank’s Fintech Business Group Head Ramon Vicente de Vera announced the bank’s Project i2i, which initial project is to involve rural banks in blockchain technology of UnionBank in order to promote financial inclusion.

De Vera said rural banks have strong presence in remote communities, which universal banks cannot reach.

Through the Project i2i, UnionBank will interconnect five rural banks to national and international payment networks, allowing their customers to access fund transfer, remittances, and other payment systems through these rural banks.

This pilot project will be online by next month, de Vera said.

“We are just starting with rural banks. We will tech them up and help them bring to life,” he said, noting that from 3,000 rural banks, the country now has less than 500 rural banks. (PNA)