Espenilla: BSP monitoring local Bitcoin transactions

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Monetary authorities are monitoring growing virtual currency (VC) transactions in the country, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Friday.

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VCs were introduced around 2009 – the most famous being Bitcoin – and they remain unregulated by central banks.They are used in online transactions to purchase both virtual and real goods.

Last February 6, the BSP issued Circular 944 requiring firms that intend to transact VCs to register as remittance and transfer companies (RTCs).

Bangko Sentral Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. told reporters that two local companies, which he declined to identify, had complied.

Bitcoin transactions are growing from about US$2-3 million a month in recent years, Espenilla said, but declined to give specifics.

“We see a rapid increase in the trajectory. It is coming from a small base but increasing, that is why we decided to require them to register,” he said.

“We are moving to regulate them,” he stressed.

Espenilla explained that registered remittance and transfer companies are required to report any suspicious transactions.

“That is the importance of putting them (VC-related entities) under the regulatory framework. They have to comply with it,” he said.

In March 2014, the BSP came out with an advisory warning the public that consumers are not protected from financial losses as VCs are unregulated.

Espenilla also told a forum on Friday that the central bank “saw fairly accelerated growth of use of some virtual currencies in money remittance business.”

“Using our risk-based proportionate approach we could see that it’s gaining rapid traction already,” he said.

The central bank chief explained that with companies dealing with VCs now required to register, the BSP will be able to address immediate risks, These currencies , he added, are “still a work in progress.”

Asked whether further regulations would be issued, Espenilla said :“I’m not sure.”

“It depends on how this thing grows. That’s why I also emphasized the constant monitoring of the environment and how it is being used,” he said.

PNA

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