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The Philippines to Establish Fintech Innovation Office

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced the establishment of a new office unit to oversee the fintech industry to promote financial inclusion and protect consumers and investors. Under its Corporate Governance and Finance Department (CGFD), the PhiliFintech Innovation Office (PIO) will focus on the regulation of the use of fintech or financial technology, in the Philippines. The PIO is mandated to perform the following:

  • Reduce gaps in consumer and investor protection tempered by financial inclusion, integrity, and stability through a dedicated focus on the regulation and growth of fintech activities.
  • Create better-informed policies for new and existing fintech innovators; and
  • Capacitate the SEC with expertise to effectively regulate fintech activities and promote an innovative culture in the corporate sector.

“Integral to our mission of championing the business sector, the capital market, and the investing public, is fostering innovation,” SEC chairperson said in a statement. The agency supports new and emerging business concepts while taking a proactive stance against any excessive risk build-up to ensure market integrity. The PhiliFintech Innovation Office has been created to be at the helm of building an enabling regulatory environment for fintech.

The SEC’s mandate includes regulating innovative trading markets and technology-based ventures, as outlined in Republic Act No. 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code. The Securities and Exchange Commission previously supervised the registration and granting of licences for non-traditional securities and instruments through its Non-Traditional Department, which was later abolished following the creation of the Insurance Commission in 2010.

Since then, the SEC has delegated regulation of non-traditional securities and fintech initiatives to other departments and has treated them on a case-by-case basis. To better prepare the country for fintech innovation, the SEC created the PIO to give greater regulatory focus on the industry.

OpenGov Asia reported according to a global study, the Philippines is ranked 48th out of 110 countries based on a set of five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars. The rankings are based on the third annual edition of the Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL), which included data from 90% of the world’s population. It was carried out by a cybersecurity firm. The Philippines performed well in terms of Internet quality (20th) and e-security (30th), however fell short in terms of Internet affordability (72nd), e-infrastructure (63rd), and e-government (67th).

The PIO, in collaboration with the appropriate agency department, will expedite the registration of new fintech companies. It will also be the first point of contact for existing fintech companies that have been operating without proper regulation or authorization, or that will launch new fintech products. It is also responsible for documenting, analysing and comprehending fintech business models and their potential impacts on the market and its participants. Through this, it will be able to formulate and implement regulatory responses aimed at protecting investors and market participants while also promoting the growth of fintech firms.

Before the establishment of the PIO, the SEC issued rules and regulations in response to new technologies that emerged in the market. The agency approved the Rules and Regulations Governing Crowdfunding in 2019, which gave start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses easier access to funding. It gave its approval to the country’s first crowdfunding portal.

Meanwhile, the SEC is developing rules governing digital asset offerings and digital asset exchanges to give investors more options while also protecting them from the misuse of such emerging assets. They are acutely aware that with new and emerging business concepts and innovation there comes associated risks. To mitigate and manage these, the Commission plans to embed safeguards in every policy action. It will intensify enforcement and education campaigns to protect investors and financial consumers as well as the overall integrity of the business sector.

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