Democratizing finance

Published July 22, 2021, 6:00 AM

by J. Albert Gamboa

July 7, 2021 was an auspicious day for iWave Advanced Research Group Inc. (iWar), a subsidiary of Filipino-Japanese venture iWave Inc. On that date, iWar unveiled the Global Trade Exchange (GTX) at the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) in the first-class municipality of Mariveles.

GTX was granted an exclusive eight-year license by the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) in November 2020, followed by a perpetual license to operate a digital asset exchange that enables trading in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. AFAB Chairman Pablo Gancayco said the GTX ties in with FAB’s rich history of pioneering efforts as the latest manifestation of that spirit of innovation that brings Bataan and the Philippines into the future.

Bataan Congressman Jose Enrique Garcia III lauded the timely passage of Republic Act No. 11453 that introduced changes to AFAB’s charter. He pointed out that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the call for digital transformation in business has become even more pervasive. AFAB Administrator Emmanuel Pineda outlined the ecozone’s partner selection process and invited locators to invest in FAB, highlighting the unprecedented mandate of GTX’s decentralized exchange.

During the bell-ringing ceremony at AFAB’s world-class auditorium, iWave President and CEO Ramon Garcia Jr. announced that GTX has a $2.9 billion pipeline of fresh capital to be raised from the international markets. Reminiscent of the New York Stock Exchange’s iconic symbol, the GTX bell is inscribed with the words “Democratizing Finance.”

However, trading is currently not open to local investors and issuers since the Philippine government has not issued yet any domestic regulatory framework on the offering of digital assets. But since the GTX exists in the cloud, it can facilitate trading among offshore market players across various jurisdictions globally.

Significantly, the local economy will stand to benefit from the jobs to be generated by the GTX’s issuers coming from multiple sectors such as financial services, clean energy, production of electronic batteries for e-vehicles, defense and agricultural technologies.


Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion recently warned the government to be more cautious in reopening the economy because the entry of the highly infectious Delta and Delta Plus variants of COVID-19 could “throw a curveball and destroy entire plans” to jumpstart the Philippines’ battered economy. He also advised the Duterte administration to ramp up its vaccination program and emulate the private sector’s efforts in attaining herd immunity by bringing in more vaccine doses.

One of the companies that have contributed to the country’s fight against COVID-19 is the MVP Group, which recently rolled out the “We Got Your Vac” program to vaccinate its 60,000 employees nationwide. Last July 2, the MVP Vaccine Task Force inoculated the first batch at the Meralco compound in Pasig City.

For its part, the Century Properties Group has launched the “CPG VacciNATION” program to immunize its 5,000-strong workforce and their qualified dependents. Having procured 26,000 doses of vaccines, the listed real estate firm will provide 100% free immunization to its stakeholders starting this month and has pledged to donate the balance to the national government.

Another good corporate citizen is South Pacific Inc. (SPI), a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) company that has unveiled a three-pronged staff vaccination plan along with its sister company, Republic Gas Corp. SPI President Jun Golingay said many of the two firms’ employees have already been inoculated in coordination with some local government units since private supply is still limited.

With work-from-home as the new normal, the LPG industry stands to benefit from this remote office arrangement wherein most workers stay home and cook their meals. It may be noted that LPG is the fuel of choice for majority of Filipino households, and this is reflected in the industry’s steady growth despite the pandemic.

According to engineer Ronie Badidles, SPI General Manager for Sales and Marketing, the bulk of LPG demand is concentrated in Luzon Island, which comprises almost 60% of the Philippines’ total population. He disclosed that in the first quarter of 2021, SPI captured 30.2% of Luzon’s LPG market share compared to 22.8% during the corresponding period last year.

Such a stellar performance in the highly competitive energy sector as well as the rising trend of favorable financial results in other industries should help alleviate Concepcion’s fears about not having a merry Christmas this year.

J. Albert Gamboa is a Life Member of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is the Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly FINEX Digest magazine and the monthly FINEX Focus newsletter. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and the Manila Bulletin.

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