Private firms step up digital support for OFWs

By: William Depasupil, The Manila Times

THE private sector has opened windows of opportunity that displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)  and the general public can avail of to better manage their hard-earned money and keep them afloat at this challenging time of health and economic crises.

In an online forum hosted by The Manila Times, “Creating New Opportunities for OFWs” over the weekend, Lito Villaneuva, RCBC executive vice president and chief innovations and inclusive officer, and Brian Kang, Bexpress Pro chief executive officer, shared their respective companies’ initiatives in the area of digital transformation.

Lito Villaneuva

Villanueva disclosed that RCBC launched “discartech,” a fusion of the Filipino word “diskarte” and technology which, he said, was the first Tagalog-English mobile app in the country.

He said that one can open a discartech account in less than five minutes without the need for an initial deposit and no maintaining balance.

“This is a bank account, a savings account,” Villanueva said but pointed out that what makes it different from ordinary savings accounts is the high interest rate at 3.5 percent.

He added that displaced OFWs can use the card as a source of additional income through  digital transactions like e-load, bills and government payments, among others.

“You can use it for business in your neighbors who have both smartphones or internet data access,”  he added.

It can also be used for other banking transactions like fund transfer, which Villanueva said was  free of charge at present until the end of the year.

Villaneuva said the project was launched in July and two months later was able to hit more than 2 million downloads and became the number one mobile app in the country.

He added that they were also eyeing potential collaboration with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc., where diskartech can provide livelihood and other support programs for OFWs.

“At the end of the day it is more of a public-private partnership with the aim of providing assistance to our OFWs,” he said.

Bexpress Pro

Kang said Bexpress is a cryptocurrency company, whose mission is to maximize investments in the Philippines through a fast system minus the excessive fees of existing banks and remittance companies.

Brian Kang

He said his firm uses blockchain technology, which is designed with airtight safety features to ensure fast and secure transactions.

“One convenient part of using Bexpress is you don’t have to go to the office, everything is submitted and verified online,” he added.

“Customer verification is complete within 24 hours and withdrawal and deposits are processed within one to three hours.”

Kang said they have an online training platform and a 24/7 live chat for OFWs who wanted to avail of their services.

He said among the benefits of cryptocurrency is it has little to no processing fees, high transaction speeds and financial inclusion, and it reaches far-flung areas.

The Philippines is among the 10 countries that actively regulate cryptocurrency despite the global crisis. The others are China, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain and South Korea.