A shot of the Unionbank branch in Manila, Philippines

Product image courtesy of Tupungato/Shutterstock

Malta, U.S., Singapore, South Korea, and Japan are among the few countries in the world who are innovative in the blockchain technology and have a remarkable Bitcoin ecosystem. Come to think of it, not many would anticipate that the Philippines would be stepping up their crypto-game — considering that it’s a country that apparently has a great deal of crypto users, according to a story on NewsBTC.

One of the largest commercial banks based in the Philippines made a noteworthy move last week that would promote cryptocurrency in the nation. Local publications reported that the Union Bank of the Philippines has launched the country’s first-ever crypto ATM.

The motive of the said automated teller machine (ATM), as mentioned in the official statement of the bank acquired by Philstar, is to give local users an easy-breezy way to have cryptocurrency converted to fiat and the other way around. In addition, the crypto ATM initiated and distributed by UnionBank is a two-way machine, enabling people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

“In the bank’s continued quest to cater to the evolving needs and tastes of customers, including clients who use virtual currency, the ATM will provide these clients an alternative channel to convert their pesos to virtual currency and vice versa,” (Union Bank)

According to an article from Bitcoin.com, the machine will be Philippines’ first-ever cryptocurrency ATM that acts in accordance with the rules and regulations established by the country’s central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The Philippine government’s regulatory sandbox claims this project as a part of it. The bank claims it has been cooperating with the BSP to come up with innovative solutions that would benefit the people of the Philippines.

Exploring Bitcoin and Distributed Ledger Technologies

As stated in a story from online news site BitPinas last July 2018, BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said that, at that moment in time, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was exploring bitcoin and distributed ledger technologies like blockchain and their potential with regards to how it can be utilized to improve or give solutions to standard banking transactions.

Moreover, the governor also shared that the BSP is cooperating with universal banks and key players in the industry for a prospective linkup with DLT providers.

“We believe that collaboration and strengthening partnerships with other fintech players is a way to boost distributed capabilities of correspondent banks, … To grow markets in the midst of competition, new customer solutions through efficient operations should be delivered.” (Nestor A. Espenilla Jr.)

#CryptoATM Coming Soon

A statement by Unionbank mentioned that “In the bank’s continued quest to cater to the evolving needs and tastes of customers, including clients who use virtual currency, the ATM will provide these clients an alternative channel to convert their Pesos to virtual currency and vice versa,”. No coins in particular were named in the announcement, according to an article from Philstar. Nevertheless, this initiative only brings out the emerging industry theme of ATMs that cast aside the shackles of the traditional bank system, such as fiat and payments processors like Mastercard and Visa.

An article in relation to the matter from Bitcoin.com shared a screenshot of a picture of Unionbank’s crypto ATM from a tweet that was posted on social media on Jan. 17, from a user named Mike Abundo.

The Country’s Crypto Regulation

Observing the growth in the utilizations of cryptocurrencies for remittances and payments in the Philippines, the BSP initiated a formal regulatory framework for virtual currency Exchanges through Circular 944 dated Feb. 6 2017, according to Philstar Global.

As stated in Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ media release about the Advisory on the Use of Virtual Currencies, it was clarified that “Following the warning advisory issued by the BSP in March 2014, a formal regulatory approach was adopted through the issuance of Circular No. 944 dated 6 February 2017.” This newsletter indicates “guidelines for virtual currency (VC) exchanges” proposing “services or engaging in activities that provide facility for the conversion or exchange of fiat currency to VC or vice versa” in the Philippines.

Considering that it “does not intend to endorse” any digital currencies such as bitcoin, the BSP made it clear that it intends to monitor them “when used for delivery of financial services, particularly, for payments and remittances.”, as mentioned on a story from Bitcoin.com.

Fiat To Crypto On-Ramps To Promote Bitcoin in 2019

This venture in the Philippines comes as Fundstrat’s research team, which includes Rob Sluymer and Tom Lee, claimed that the rise in the fiat-to-crypto on-ramp sector will be a positive catalyst for Bitcoin in the coming year. According to a sneak peek of a Fundstrat report, the New York investment advisory outfit noted that influx of consumer interest in Bitcoin may be catalyzed by Binance’s recent addition of credit card crypto buying feature, along with other fiat-supported infrastructure from other upstarts.

Do you think the addition of Crypto ATMs in the Philippines would effectively boost Bitcoin and its utilization in the country? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!