THE PHILIPPINES joined the Singapore-based global network for technology startups called the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) in a bid to boost small businesses.

The addition of Manila to the GIA on Monday brought its member Southeast Asian cities to four, along with Bangkok, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Jakarta, Indonesia, as the network aims to help startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) connect with other overseas businesses and technology hubs, Alvin Tan, Singapore’s minister of state for trade and industry, said during the virtual conference for the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 2020 (SWITCH 2020).

This will allow more collaboration to happen between the tech startups and SMEs in Singapore and the Philippines, he said.

“GIA Manila will assist tech startups and SMEs based in Singapore with their internationalization and innovation efforts in Manila. Our partner, Plug and Play, will run programs together with Launchgarage, one of the leading tech startup accelerators in the Philippines,” Mr. Tan said.

“Through these programs, participating startups and SMEs will be able to plug themselves into the Philippines ecosystem and gain business connections and collaboration opportunities which can help them in their growth overseas,” he added.

The GIA has a total of 14 member cities, which include Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai in China; San Francisco in the United States; Berlin and Munich in Germany; Paris in France; London in the United Kingdom; Tokyo in Japan; and Bangalore in India.

Speaking at the same conference, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director for Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision Department Melchor T. Plabasan said a wider adoption of financial technology (fintech) can spur growth among SMEs in the country.

“For an inclusive fintech growth, there has to be a level playing field with respect to regulations that’s why our approach has always been to regulate based on the type of technology not on the type of entities offering services. If a bank can take advantage of KYC (know your customer) and other relaxed rules, fintech players can also take advantage of those,” he said.

Mr. Plabasan said the central bank has been rolling out regulations for both traditional and fintech players to help more firms and individuals get access to financing.

“I think that would help the Philippines harness fintech innovation to promote growth and hopefully, economic recovery,” he said.

“While this pandemic has brought a lot of destruction, undoubtedly it has also served as unexpected catalyst for going digital,” Mr. Plabasan said. “The BSP will continue to call for responsible innovation, (which will) allow beneficial innovation without sacrificing or compromising consumer protection, cybersecurity and financial stability.”

The BSP last month approved a regulatory framework for digital banks. Under the rules, digital banks will be another classification alongside universal, commercial, thrift, rural, cooperative and Islamic banks.

The central bank has said that digital lenders could help the BSP achieve its goal to bring 70% of adult Filipinos into the financial system and to have at least 50% of payments by volume and value done digitally by 2023.

Only 29% of Filipino adults had accounts with financial institutions as of 2019, leaving some 51.2 million unbanked, BSP data showed.

Meanwhile, e-payments made up 10% of the total transaction volume in the country in 2018 from only 1% in 2013, data from the Better Than Cash Alliance showed. By value, online transactions made up 20% of the total in 2018 from just 8% in 2013. — BML