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DoF officials to study Alibaba proposals for e-commerce, AI

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Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. -- REUTERS

FINANCE department officials will attend a workshop in Hangzhou, China on Wednesday, which will include a meeting with Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma to explore e-commerce and artificial intelligence (AI) applications for the Philippines.

In a statement, the Department of Finance (DoF) said that a delegation led by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, will be in Hangzhou between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 to hear Alibaba proposals that are “tailored” for Philippine needs.

The meeting with Mr. Ma will take place on Feb. 1.

“We will look at the financial regulations in China and explore how we can tap digital technologies to empower our MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises), especially those in the countryside, the same way that Jack Ma did to help small enterprises in China gain a foothold in the global e-commerce industry,” Mr. Dominguez said. 

The New Economy Workshop in Hangzhou will “incorporate firsthand experience with real-life e-commerce applications in an effort to provide a framework for creating a regulatory environment that encourages growth across the financial technology, logistics, e-commerce and big data industries,” the DoF said.

The topics include inclusive finance through digital technologies; rural e-commerce development; and smart logistics in the digital economy.

There will also be discussions on the use of artificial intelligence for smart traffic management — a tool to help ease congestion in Metro Manila — led by Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of the Alibaba Group.

Alibaba Business School is located next to the Alibaba head office in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in eastern China. It was jointly established by Hangzhou Normal University and Alibaba Group in October 2008, focused on enabling the growth of small and medium enterprises.

Among the speakers scheduled to appear at the workshop are Wu Xiaobo, an economist and former dean of the Zheijiang University School of Management; Chen Long, the chief strategy officer of the Ant Financial Group, the operator of Alipay; Bill Wang, head of the All-Countryside Business Unit and vice-president of the Alibaba Group; Min Wanli, senior director of Alibaba Cloud; Bhushan Patil, president of the India-based e-tailer Paytm; and Guan Xiaodong, head of Cainiao Network International Business.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) launched the National Retail Payment System (NRPS) in December 2015 to create a safe, efficient and reliable electronic retail payment system.

In November, the central bank also launched the PESO Net electronic fund transfer payment scheme for individuals and large businesses, which is the first automated clearing house under the NRPS.

The BSP is also set to launch another automated clearing house called InstaPay, which will enable 24/7 low-value electronic fund transfers. The system is due to launch this year.

The China visit follows Mr. Ma’s visit to the Philippines in November, during which he offered to help develop the digital market in the Philippines to create a cashless society and connect the country’s e-commerce markets to other markets in Europe, China and other countries, with small businesses the intended beneficiaries.

Mr. Ma told Mr. Dominguez his standard for online financial transactions is known as “3-1-0,” meaning firms can apply for a loan online in three minutes, with one minute to get the money transferred to its account, with zero human contact.

Mr. Ma’s online lending schemes claim a loss rate of only $4 out of $10 million issued, against a $10-to-$100,000 ratio for loans processed with human intervention.

In February 2017, Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group, acquired 45% of Globe Telecom, Inc.’s financial technology arm, Globe Fintech Innovations, Inc. (Mynt) — which was approved by the competition regulator in August. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan