DIGITAL CURRENCY conversions in the Philippines steadied near the $40-million mark in recent months, a ranking central bank official said.
Conversions from peso to virtual currencies (VC) averaged $36.74 million per month in the first quarter, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier said. The amount covers only transactions reported by two VC exchanges registered with the central bank in that period. The amount compares to the fourth quarter 2017’s $38.27 million.
In February 2017, the BSP moved to regulate businesses that convert cash to virtual currencies like bitcoin and ethereum, imposing requirements for risk management and to guard against money laundering. The data come from the VC exchanges Rebittance, Inc. and Betur, Inc. more popularly known as Coins.ph, which have been accredited by the BSP. Bloom Solutions later registered as well.
The BSP recognizes the benefits of using digital currencies in terms of faster, cheaper remittance transactions, but has at the same time warned about rapidly changing values, potential use for crime and other cybersecurity risks.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has said it will start looking at VC transactions as part of its tighter watch against dirty money, given that these businesses are also required to report suspicious transactions.
Digital currencies may be used as investment instruments or for paying goods and services sold on the Internet. The controversy surrounding them centers on the fact that they are not backed by governments nor by cash reserves as are conventional currencies. Cryptocurrency advocates, however, argue that the blockchain technology — a growing list of transaction records safeguarded in a peer-to-peer network — that enable transactions makes them more impervious to manipulation than conventional currencies.
The BSP is also looking at whether VC exchanges will need to register as electronic money issuers on top of their VC license, especially if they maintain e-wallets for clients. Signing up as e-money issuers will require them to have a minimum capital of P100 million, bigger than what is required of rural banks, Ms. Fonacier has said. The BSP also sets aggregate load limit for e-money instruments at P100,000. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez