Gov't, banks, developers give tips on using 'over-hyped' Bitcoin in PH

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2017 10:31 PM | Updated as of Dec 15 2017 03:19 PM

MANILA - Despite the skyrocketing value of Bitcoin, hitting $17,428.42 on Tuesday, fintech developers, financial institutions, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) warned against its volatility.

In a statement released Wednesday, the BSP said it is fast-tracking the approval of the registration of 12 new virtual currency (VC) exchanges to further protect consumers.

"We just regulate, we don't endorse virtual currency because it's not a currency," Melchor Pablasan, head of BSP’s Core-IT Specialist Group said.

"We only regulate if it is used in delivering financial services like remittance," he added.

In using Bitcoin for payments and remittances, Pablasan said the “immediate and direct” transactions make any payment made irreversible.

Even BSP-licensed fintech developers who created cryptocurrency-based platforms remind the public to be cautious when deciding to invest in bitcoin.

“It’s more risky pa than the stock market kasi there’s no way to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, the value right now could be a little bit over-hyped,” Miguel Cuneta, co-founder of Satoshi Citadel Industries, told ABS CBN News.

Justin Leow, the head of business operations of Coins.ph, a "mobile wallet" which also offers Bitcoin payment and remittance service, said his purpose of building the platform is financial inclusivity.

“We’re a mobile wallet and our goal is to make it easy for everyone to have access to financial services even if you don’t have a bank account,” Leow told ABS-CBN News.

Mobile wallet offers payment and remittance service using Philippine Peso or Bitcoin.

With Coins.ph, users can load up their mobile wallets through payment kiosks at 7/11 convenience stores, online bank transfers, and remittance centers.

Once the wallet receives the peso, it can be converted to Bitcoin within the app and can then be used to buy goods, pay bills or send money.

However, like any popular innovation, dubious groups leverage on the public's curiosity. Pablasan recommends limiting balances to a minimum and to always be on-guard against scammers.

“We plan to issue a supplemental advisory to the public in response to certain unscrupulous fraudsters that try to entice consumers to 'invest' in Bitcoins or VCs,” Pablasan said.

Meanwhile, for UnionBank, the public’s clamor for cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed, but precautions should still be practised.

“There are a lot of customers demanding it. Being a customer-centric bank, we cannot ignore that demand, so the best we can do is partner with Fintechs that offer cryptocurrency for as long as they have a license with the BSP,” Justo A. Ortiz, CEO & UnionBank chairman told ABS CBN News during the opening of the country's first fully digital bank "Ark" by UnionBank earlier this month.