The central bank of the Philippines is reportedly reviewing applications from at least a dozen companies looking to start a virtual currency exchange operation, even though cryptocurrency use has yet to be regulated in the country.
Melchor Plabasan, deputy director of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), told local media that “a lot of the applications are progressing now,” albeit slowly due to the central bank’s two-tiered review process: The BSP first evaluates the company’s business model before requiring them to complete the documentary requirements.
So far, two companies—Rebittance and Bitour, or more commonly known as Coins.ph—were already approved to operate as virtual currency exchanges in the Philippines. These two firms, however, function as remittance companies and must comply with the central bank’s anti-money laundering regulations, technology risk management, and consumer protection measures, among other things.
BSP, which has been keeping close tabs on domestic cryptocurrency-related transactions since 2014, recorded an estimated $6 million in virtual currency transactions monthly, up from the $2 million-$3 million recorded between 2014 and 2015. This growing number of virtual currency remittances in the country has prompted the central bank to put out Circular No. 944, paving the way for virtual currency systems to be utilized as financial service systems, particularly for payments and remittance.
Plabasan previously described the circular as a “pioneering regulation”—one that placed the Philippines in the leagues of countries that are not frightened of harnessing innovation. Governments still have no ability to interfere with peer-to-peer transfers, but these countries’ move to regulate exchanges is definitely a boon to the cryptocurrency sector as it makes a bid for mainstream acceptance.
Plabasan, however, clarified that the central still does not endorse cryptocurrency like Bitcoin as currency, simply “because it is not a currency.”
“We only regulate bitcoin or virtual currencies when it is used in delivering financial services like remittance and payments,” Plabasan said, according to Reuters.