Bitcoin has gained a lot of controversy in Asia recently. But it’s still quickly spreading around the region. In the Philippines, Bitcoin has now become more accessible through BuyBitcoin.ph, a new online exchange that just launched today.
Individuals can now buy bitcoins in the Philippines by depositing cash at over 800 Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branches in the country. Lasse Olesen, co-founder of BuyBitcoin.ph, says that at the moment, “cash payments are the most secure channel.” But they are still looking to add more payment avenues like online transfers within the year.
This can be helpful for the growing Bitcoin community in the Philippines who did not have a dedicated online platform to do Bitcoin trading prior to BuyBitcoin.
Remittance and more
What does that mean for the country? Olesen believes that the potential of Bitcoin can begin with the remittance market, and eventually, it can grow from there. He says:
Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, […] it is one of the three largest markets for international money remittance, and we think Bitcoin has potential to play a role there soon.
The main source of remittances in the Philippines are from overseas Filipino workers (OFW). In 2012, a survey of overseas workers shows that there are about 2.2 million OFWs around the globe. And during the first half of 2013, remittances reached $13.9 billion, a 6.4 percent year-on-year growth which is attributed to the OFWs’ remittances which cover about 75 percent of the total in the country.
Because of Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer nature which bypasses the need for middle-men financial institutions like credit card processors and banks to transfer the funds, the digital currency has the potential to lower to the cost and increase the speed of remittances.
This application is just the beginning. He believes it’s possible in the near future to see Bitcoin integrated with other platforms such as e-commerce sites and online freelance marketplaces. Olesen says:
Many online transactions here are being made by cash deposits in physical locations, and Bitcoin is cash for the internet, so it’s a good fit. [It’s also] incredibly empowering for the self-employed freelancer or merchant. It gives you instant access to a global market where you can receive payments practically for free and, if you want, exchange to cash locally. If you’re a small merchant, accepting international payments through PayPal or bank wires is just not feasible with their fees.
Bitcoin versus government?
In other Asian countries like China and India, Bitcoin has experienced trading issues because of the government’s interference. But likewise, there’s the Monetary Authority of Singapore which decided not to intervene on Bitcoin transactions. Olesen believes this move in Singapore may set a precedent for acceptance of BitCoin in different countries like the Philippines. He says:
Various governments worldwide are realizing how Bitcoin has the potential to spawn an entire new industry bringing with it investments and jobs – much like the internet itself has done. I think the Filipino government will apply regulations to Bitcoin similar to how other digital goods or currencies are regulated but in a way that does not leave the Filipino tech sector competitively at a disadvantage compared to other Southeast Asian countries.
Interestingly, even before BuyBitcoin, there has already been a Bitcoin community in the Philippines. And it looks like more people are showing interest. Bitcoin Philippines’ Facebook page has around 500 likes so far. A number of people are also engaging in conversations about Bitcoin in the Philippines on Reddit.
(Editing by Terence Lee)