Bitcoin in the Phl
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2017 - 4:00pm

Years ago when we first heard the term “bitcoin” no one really knew what it meant. Fast forward to 2017 and bitcoin value is rising at an unprecedented rate making those who invested when it was worth virtually nothing practically rich overnight. Although it wasn’t as “overnight” as some people like to think. Bitcoin value rose over the years since its debut and it wasn’t shocking – it’s only been in 2017 that the rise became so quick that people began to really take notice.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and I have to admit that the concept is still something I am trying to understand. It can be use as payment in some countries and in others it’s seen as an investment route. Investing in bitcoin can give you better returns than a regular bank and that’s what makes it so appealing to many. After all, if you are going to put your money somewhere, you may as well put it where you’ll get the best returns.

However, bitcoin is not without its own caveat of course. It’s largely unregulated and therefore there is a danger of extreme peaks and valleys. It’s also not tangible. In the end, you can earn a lot but you can also lose a lot. That being said, as is the case with any investment, you should never put in more than you can stand to lose at any given time. Should you earn from it then that should just be icing.

While bitcoin was mainly popular in the United States and Europe, it has recently begun growing in popularity in the Philippines too. In fact, 12 more virtual currency exchanges are applying for registration with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas at the moment since bitcoin transactions have more than doubled in the past year. It looks like the market is growing – and growing quickly. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

In a press briefing, BSP said that bitcoin trading in the Philippines has more than doubled since 2015 and that this would only continue to get bigger. Currently there are only two virtual currency exchanges here and that looks like it will change and soon. As bitcoin becomes more popular I can only imagine we are going to hear more and more about it from everyone on the spectrum – those who have made quite a bit and are pro bitcoin and those who may not completely understand it and instead focus on the risks involved.

Personally I think that there are risks to any investment. Just because we don’t fully understand something doesn’t mean it is not legitimate or not worth a closer look. It seems as if the youth are the ones propping up the bitcoin market in the Philippines and perhaps those of us who are older and more used to traditional money and institutions should look into it. As with anything, research is key. Arm yourself with knowledge before going in and you’ll never be blindsided.

As for me, I’m still an old soul. I don’t know if I’m ready to leave the safety of established banks and systems that offer smaller returns but give me a sense of security. But then again, don’t quote me on that. The world is changing after all and I may end up eating my words.

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I still recall when the Philippines was initially hesitant to join the (then) newly organized Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – a joint project of China and India. There was a bit of back and forth but in the end we (rightly) saw the benefit to being a part of the AIIB along with other Asian nations. That turned out to be a very wise decision. Today, the AIIB has grown to more than 57 nations and isn’t slowing down yet.

The concept of the financial institution is brilliant. China understand that they (and Asia) were pushing the economy in many parts of the world and wanted to give countries in the region an alternative lending institute to the World Bank – International Monetary Fund and the European Union. This would give businesses more options and in the end also make rates much more competitive and fair.

The move made total sense for a region that was one of the largest economies in the world – and still growing. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said recently that the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a global economic power. In fact, he put it quite eloquently – “the economic balance of power has shifted and Asia is now expected to lead global growth. We cannot simply be content to track the development experience of the West. We have to rethink our strategies for growth.”

This is more appropriate than ever. Especially in this day and age when economic nationalism and hostility towards globalization appear to be on the rise in the West. We have to be able to move ahead on our own should their support no longer be an option. In 2018 I expect there will be much more cooperation with AIIB for economic and infrastructure projects.

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I am glad that no one in Congress has come forward to endorse the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. I believe she is doing a great job and is trustworthy, professional, and competent.It’s odd but usually I am quite supportive of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). This time though we are on opposite sides of the fence and I think they have overstepped their bounds. VACC is supposed to be a non-political body but it certainly hasn’t felt that way recently.


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