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Manila is still fintech haven



The Philippines remains a top cryptocurrency haven with loose regulations from a sympathetic government regulator that is motivating both local and foreign players, which also saw the value of digital currency transaction more than doubled year-on-year in 2018.

In an interview, Miguel Cuneta, one of the co-founders of Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI), operator of cryptocurrency exchange and blockchain remittance service, said the domestic digital currency industry still has plenty of room to grow and could even accommodate more players as the space is still in its nascent stage.

“The market is not yet saturated,” Cuneta said. “The blockchain and cryptocurrency industries are still a new industry. The market is still relatively small in terms of volume and number of users here and across the globe, although the Philippines is a major player in the industry because of the government’s financial inclusion drive.”

He was reacting to the data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showing the value of virtual currency transactions in the country reached $390.37 million in 2018, more than doubling the $189.18 million recorded in 2017 or higher by $201.19 million.

However, BSP Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision Department officer-in-charge Melchor Plabasan noted the rise in transaction value despite a 6.5 percent decrease in volume from 6.58 million transactions in 2017 to 6.15 million transactions last year.

The transactions include conversion from peso and other currencies to digital currencies amounting $208.27 million, conversion of virtual currencies into peso and other currencies totaling $173.33 million, and international inward remittance facilitated through digital currencies totaling $8.77 million.

But Cuneta said the number could still rise because the central bank data does not include peer-to-peer transactions, OTC (over-the-counter) groups, personal trading, and others. “A lot of bitcoin and digital currency trading are not recorded,” he said.

Crypto friendly

According to Cuneta, the blockhain and crypto spaces in the Philippines are enjoying the luxury of a friendly regime not enjoyed in other jurisdictions.

The progressive central bank, he said, is allowing fintech business in the country to flourish. In some countries, the crypto industry does not have the same privilege that they are forced to “hide” their operations. And even if they are allowed to operate, they tend not to announce their presence.

But here, virtual currency trading is allowed that has attracted a lot of crypto exchanges.

To be sure, the BSP has licensed at least 10 digital currency exchanges in the country, with more license application pending. Those given licenses were: Betur Inc. dba, Remittance Inc., Bloomsolutions Inc., Virtual Currency Philippines Inc., Etranss Remittance International Corp., Fyntegrate Inc., Zybi Tech Inc. Bexpress Inc., Coinvillel Phils Inc. and Aba Global Philippines Inc.