In recent years, blockchain technology has emerged as a transformative force with the potential to revolutionize various industries. However, the extent to which businesses and government entities are willing to embrace this innovation varies significantly.

In an exclusive interview with CoinGeek, Third Bagro, co-founder of Twala, a government-backed startup utilizing blockchain technology that allows individuals to sign legally binding documents, shared his insights on the reception of blockchain technology within both the private and public sectors, emphasizing the importance of understanding the legal framework surrounding blockchain adoption.

He referenced the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, which laid the groundwork for recognizing electronic documents and digital signatures, underscoring the principle of tech neutrality. Additionally, Bagro highlighted specific legislative efforts, such as the amended Republic Act No. 11453, which acknowledges emerging technologies like blockchain within designated free port authorities.

Moreover, Bagro noted the proactive stance taken by regulatory bodies like the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the central bank of the Philippines, in exploring the potential of blockchain technology. This indicates a growing awareness and interest among government institutions in leveraging blockchain for various purposes, including financial transactions and digital currency initiatives.

Despite varying levels of familiarity and acceptance within the government, Bagro emphasized the importance of dispelling misconceptions surrounding blockchain, mainly its association with “cryptocurrency.”

“When you say blockchain, the first thing that comes to mind is crypto, right? But that’s really not just what blockchain is about. But when they see that, and we’re able to explain the benefits of it and how it’s been used in different jurisdictions, like in Europe, in the Middle East, and also here in the region, then they will see that this is something that we can take advantage of,” he said. He also highlighted the need to educate stakeholders about the broader applications and benefits of blockchain technology, stating, “It’s really a matter of explaining what the benefits are and how those are in line with our legal framework.”

Advocating for comprehensive digitalization strategy

Bagro highlighted a critical aspect often overlooked in discussions surrounding
digitalization efforts: the importance of finalizing transactions in a digital, secure, and legally admissible manner. Bagro emphasized that while there is much focus on acquiring hardware, software, and training, the ultimate goal should always be digitizing final products.

“In the government and throughout society, all transactions eventually culminate in one document that requires signing or notarization,” Bagro noted. He underscored the importance of approaching digitalization as a comprehensive management principle, stressing that the final product must be seamlessly integrated into digital platforms.

Bagro pointed out that without a focus on digitalizing final products in an affordable, secure, and legally acceptable manner, efforts to adopt digital technologies may veer off course. “If that final product is not digitalized in an affordable, secure and court-admissible way, then all other digital technology efforts will be wayward,” he cautioned.

Bagro highlighted Twala’s solution as applicable across government agencies and the private sector, offering a locally developed, competitive option to enhance business operations and improve overall customer experiences.

“We’re really excited to socialize that solution and make sure that our government and the private sector are taking advantage of this local solution that’s available and very competitive,” Bagro affirmed.

Progress in e-notarization and digital credentials

Bagro expressed his excitement over advancements in digitalization efforts, particularly in e-notarization and digital credentials. “I’m personally excited about the Supreme Court’s effort to finally allow e-notarization in the country,” he says.

Twala participated in a dialogue with the Supreme Court subcommittee on delegation, where they contributed expertise on best practices and technological advancements relevant to the legal framework. Bagro emphasized the significance of this initiative, noting that e-notarization represents a crucial missing piece in the digitalization framework.

“That’s the missing piece in the digitalization framework.. if the Supreme Court allows for that final piece to be put in, then we’ll have a whole system that can be digitized,” he said.

Moreover, Bagro shared his enthusiasm for Twala’s collaboration with a government agency to facilitate digital credentials. This initiative aims to digitize the process of requesting and verifying documents related to individuals’ past records. Through Twala’s solution, these digital credentials will be instantly accessible and verifiable, offering a more efficient and secure alternative to traditional paper-based documentation.

Twala’s blockchain solution: Cost-efficient and lightning-fast

In the fast-paced world of digital transactions, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are paramount. Bagro emphasizes Twala’s commitment to affordability, highlighting its ability to offer competitive pricing compared to larger providers in the market. He attributes this cost-efficiency to Twala’s proprietary private blockchain, strategically anchored with public blockchain networks. By leveraging this hybrid approach, Twala minimizes fees and passes on the savings to their clients, making blockchain technology more accessible to businesses of all sizes.

Twala uses the Ethereum blockchain as an extra layer of security and stability to their solution. Bagro explains that while Twala primarily operates on its private blockchain, they’ve incorporated 3 Polygon or any Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) based blockchain, depending on the needs of the customer, to serve as a redundancy measure.

Regarding speed, Bagro says that digital signing with Twala takes no longer than three seconds. He also cites a proof of concept with a government agency, where close to a thousand signatures were processed within a week, underscoring the solution’s speed and scalability.

While Twala primarily serves local clients, Bagro says they are open to international expansion. However, he acknowledges the challenges the Philippines’ stringent digital signature regulations pose. Twala aims to first solidify its presence in the local market before venturing into international territories, ensuring compliance with diverse regulatory frameworks.

Empowering digital transformation through advocacy and innovation

Bagro traces the origins of Twala to a serendipitous meeting with Jeffrey Reyes, his longtime friend and co-founder, amid the pandemic in 2020. Initially unfamiliar with blockchain technology, Bagro, a lawyer by profession, was intrigued when Reyes presented the vision for Twala—a vision centered around addressing the disconnect between the rhetoric of digitalization and the prevailing reliance on paper-based signatures in both government and corporate sectors.

Reflecting on this pivotal moment, Bagro recalls, “When he pitched it in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I wasn’t really into it. But when he shared the vision, I researched and thought, okay, this is really something that…would really leapfrog our digitalization efforts.”

Recognizing the need for education and advocacy to bridge the gap between traditional practices and digital innovation, Bagro embraced his role within Twala as more than just a co-founder but a passionate advocate for change.

“Our insight is the problem. There’s that disconnect because of the long-held belief and comfort level in the paper signing process, overlaid by a legal question on the validity of digital signatures,” he explained.

Indeed, Twala’s journey has transformed into an advocacy-driven mission fueled by a commitment to revolutionize how transactions are conducted in the Philippines.

“Digitalization is the call of the present…If we’re able to digitize our documents in a safe, secure, admissible, affordable way…we become a first world country,” Bagro emphasized.

Overcoming roadblocks: Twala’s efforts to promote blockchain adoption in the Philippines

Challenges persist alongside promising opportunities in the realm of blockchain technology adoption in the Philippines. Bagro identifies a key roadblock in the form of public opinion, particularly regarding “cryptocurrency,” which often influences perceptions of blockchain technology as a whole. He states, “The major roadblock is really the shifting of public opinion on crypto…what would help the promotion and use of this technology…is really more education about the value of blockchain.”

Twala recognizes the pivotal role of education and advocacy in reshaping perceptions and fostering a greater understanding of blockchain’s potential. Bagro commends regulatory bodies like the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for their efforts in promoting blockchain awareness.

“It’s only a matter of time when more agencies are more comfortable to take advantage…so long as they know that it works…and complies with the rules,” he remarked.

In their commitment to public awareness, Twala engages in various initiatives to reach diverse audiences across the country.

“We do also partner with organizations…nationwide membership…to make a presentation about the technology and how they can use us,” he said.

Through collaborations with prominent associations such as the World Bank Association of the Philippines and the National Confederation of Cooperatives of the Philippines, Twala conducts public information sessions and online conferences. These engagements serve as platforms to showcase the practical applications of blockchain technology and its potential to drive efficiency, transparency, and trust in various sectors.

Future endeavors

Amid inquiries about future plans and announcements for Twala, Bagro shared details about an upcoming initiative to broaden the utilization of digital signatures across various sectors. Bagro’s response hinted at an exciting venture in the works for Twala, though he remained discreet about the specifics.

“There’s another one. But I’m not at liberty to announce it. We’re still working on the details, but it’s something that will allow digital signatures to be used more widely, both by the government and the private sector. So hopefully, that pans out in the next coming months,” he said.

Watch: Turbocharging Philippines digitalization via blockchain

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New to blockchain? Check out CoinGeek’s Blockchain for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about blockchain technology.

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