The Philippines has been experimenting with different payment modes for years. The problem is that many of these systems never attained worldwide recognition. Bitcoin, however, has proven to be one of the most promising medium of exchange in the Philippines, thus far.
Bitmarket.ph brings Bitcoins to Filipinos
Bitcoins appeared in 2009, but they only managed to gain some traction in the last 3 years. The digital currency was just introduced in the Philippines and one company largely responsible for raising cryptocurrency awareness in the country is Bitmarket.ph. Launched in May, Bitmarket.ph is more like a marketplace, payment processor, and directory for Bitcoin in the Philippines.
Director of Marketing for Bitmarket.ph, Sabina Lopez-Vergara explains why Bitcoin is catching on in the Philippines:
“The possibilities of allowing e-commerce to flow much easier and faster just made so much sense for a market like ours.”
Bitmarket.ph saw the great potential of Bitcoin in the Philippines. Filipino merchants will finally have the chance to take full advantage of Bitcoin's free, secure, and efficient technology, and help their businesses thrive. The greatest benefit of digital currencies is that it helps reduce dependence of entrepreneurs and businesses on conventional payment systems such as credit cards. Bitcoin enables them to receive and send money without having to pay outrageous commissions and penalties.
Many local companies are still not familiar with Bitcoin. Bitmarket.ph is well aware that the community is growing, and that the list of Bitcoin-friendly businesses in the Philippines is on the rise. Lopez-Vergara adds:
“We are still in the early adopter stage of the technology in the country. Currently we have about 70 merchants activated on our website, with around 30 pending, giving us a total of about 100 merchants.”
Bitcoin is starting to shape up in the Philippines. Cointelegraph already reported on the recently introduced Bitcoin ATM in the country – compliments of Bitmarket.ph. It can be used to purchase Bitcoin using Philippine peso bills.
"At the moment, we are still focused on making the whole Bitcoin ATM experience better, but rest assured that we will be rolling out more of these machines as well as two-way Bitcoin ATMs (buy and sell Bitcoin) in the months to come. Hopefully in the future, Bitcoin will be as accessible as the fiat currency"
Bitcoin has a bright future ahead in the Philippines. It may even be the perfect country for the currency to develop. Believe it or not, most Filipinos don't even own a credit card; this means Bitcoin could be the perfect tool to buy things without being pummeled by fees, commissions, and excessive penalties.
But even though Filipinos are not avid credit card holders, they're savvy mobile phone users. Hard cash is still their preferred payment mode, however. That's why many local companies online still accept bank deposits. But Bitcoin and BTC startups have the potential to deliver financial services to the huge population of the unbanked in the country. They could simply use a phone to send money instantly similarly to what has been happening in Kenya and other African countries.
Philippines Remittance Market Heating Up
Coins.ph, a Philippines-based exchange, recently launched a remittance service called SendMoney.ph. Its goal is to target remittances worth $US 24.7 billion in the Philippines. CEO and co-founder Ron Hose, strongly believes in Filipinos working abroad. He stated:
"We saw overseas foreign workers paying anywhere from five percent to 25 percent to send money home with companies like Western Union and Moneygram. When their relative in the Philippines loses $10 on a $100 transaction, that’s equivalent to two to three days of work.”
Bitcoin can make things a lot easier for Filipinos, considering the crypto currency has lower transaction costs. With SendMoney.ph, workers abroad will be able to send money from anywhere in the world with Bitcoin. Their relatives will receive the cash directly in the bank account via bank deposit (no fee added).
So will SendMoney.ph succeed? Things are certainly looking up for the platform. Hose mentions:
“We already had customers that were using our Bitcoin exchange informally to remit money by selling Bitcoin, so we knew there was demand.”
Coins.ph is well aware that Filipinos need time to adapt to the new currency as Bitcoin is still in its early adopters’ phase. Therefore, time will be needed for people to become comfortable using it and for infrastructure to catch up. SendMoney.ph's goal is to gain people's trust especially since there are many reports of scams in the crypto space today.
Hose has great expectations for SendMoney.ph, and he's confident that the service will greatly benefit the country's economy, which currently loses around US$2 billion/year on money-sending fees.
“This is a trust-driven business – our growth has been primarily word-of-mouth so far. A lot of our customers try with a small amount first, and once they’ve had a positive experience, they tend to use it regularly and recommend the service to friends,” said Hose.
If SendMoney.ph manages to recuperate at least 25% of that amount by implementing a medium of exchange with lower fees, the economy of the Philippines will greatly improve.
BuyBitcoin.ph conquers the Philippines
BuyBitcoin.ph was launched in January, and in less than 6 months it managed to reach every corner of the Philippines. Thanks to a partnership with Dragonpay, a Filipino payment processor, the platform accepts cash payments in over 12,000 locations throughout the country, and online transfers are available at 6 different Filipino banks.
CEO of BuyBitcoin.ph, Sam Kaddoura, says:
“We’re excited to be offering a new channel for customers to purchase Bitcoin outside of the pre-existing cash deposit process we currently have in place. Our users continuously asked for online depositing and we’re happy to provide a solution now with Dragonpay.”
BuyBitcoin.ph has also lowered their fees significantly, and they're striving to help boost Bitcoin's participation in the remittance market. CTO of Dragonpay, Dick Chiang added:
“We commend players like BuyBitcoin.ph for taking the initiative to trail blaze and develop the local Bitcoin ecosystem. The bitcoin community is growing fast in the Philippines and we look forward to helping it grow even more by offering our suite of services to the major players like BuyBitcoin.ph.”
Conventional remittance services must abide by local and national rules that govern money transactions. Bitcoin, however, is unregulated. In spite of the fact that the value of virtual currencies changes quickly and can't be guaranteed, Filipinos will eventually start using Bitcoin because of convenience and low transaction fees. And companies like Bitmarket.ph, Coins.ph and BuyBitcoin.ph are bringing the Bitcoin revolution to the average Filipino. If the upward trend continues, the Bitcoin market in the Philippines could soon become a force to be reckoned especially given the industrious character of the Filipino people, which Ron Hose describes:
"Filipinos, regardless of whether they're here or working abroad, are extremely resourceful by nature, and they're always looking for better, cheaper, quicker ways to solve problems."