The growing number of bitcoin remittances in the country has not escaped the ever watchful eye of Philippine central bank authorities.
Nestor Espenilla, deputy governor at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), told Bloomberg that the current volume of transactions involving digital currencies in the country is “rising very quickly” since they are cheaper and quicker compared to regular remittance channels.
“We are studying putting virtual currency exchange operators under a more formal regulatory framework,” said Espenilla, noting that the central bank is “concerned with potential money laundering and consumer protection.”
BSP, the sole authority that can issue money in the Philippines, has yet to regulate cryptocurrency. But early this year, Espenilla revealed that there has been a “sizable spike” in flows of virtual currency, particularly bitcoin.
The current volume of remittance transactions involving digital currencies is at least $2 million a month, which is still a small portion of the $25.8 billion of funds that Filipinos working abroad sent home in 2015. Still, Espenilla said that figure signals the need to regulate the use of digital currencies in the country.
“One class of operations framework that we’re looking at right now will allow virtual currencies to operate in the country, and that makes them accountable for certain matters like anti-money laundering initiatives,” Espenilla told the news agency.
One factor that has jolted the Philippine central bank into stepping up its cybersecurity efforts is the security breach early this year that allowed thieves to hack into the Bangladeshi central bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve, routing $81 million to accounts to a Manila-based bank. The government canceled the money transmitter license of Philrem Service Corporation, the remittance company linked to the missing funds—an accusation Philrem has denied to this day.
“We have to be mindful of what risks are being introduced into the system,” Espenilla said, according to the news outlet. “In exchange, virtual currency operators get legitimacy. For so long as the regulatory environment is clear, innovation can happen.”
Current bitcoin price and trade volume
Popular digital currency bitcoin has broken through the $800 ceiling, trading at $809.83 on Wednesday morning with a trade volume of 9.3 million.