Binance’s Changpeng Zhao describes the Philippines as “one of the most active crypto communities in Asia” and it’s the perfect way to sum up the country’s blend of high adoption amid relatively low affluence.
With GDP spending power of less than $10,000 per head each year, this nation of 7,100 islands is far from a major contributor to worldwide exchange volumes. But in terms of day to day use and enthusiasm, a significant proportion of Filipinos appear to be leapfrogging directly from a cash-based economy to the future of fintech.
The country boasts 17 licensed digital currency exchanges, and tens of thousands of pawn shops and convenience stores happily accept cash deposits and withdrawals for various crypto exchanges and apps. You can buy Bitcoin with cash at any of the 3,000 7/Elevens in the land via Abra, and one in seven adults use the blockchain-based crypto and digital payments app Coins.ph. That’s a level of market penetration comparable to some of the most well-known payments apps in the world.
Crypto regulations are clearly defined and broadly favorable, and special economic zones such as the ‘Crypto Valley of Asia’ in Cagayan, and the Clark Freeport Zone, compete to attract international blockchain projects. In fact, the International Monetary Fund named the Philippines one of the ten best countries in the world in which to develop a blockchain or cryptocurrency project. Widespread high-level English language skills and relatively low wages have also seen Filipino workers become a favored choice as remote staff for blockchain projects.
Swapping cash for crypto
The growing embrace of fintech and blockchain comes as much from a pressing need to modernize as anything else. It’s still a cash-based society where 71% of adults don’t have a bank account. Even before the pandemic, one in five people lived below the poverty line, with many relying on cash in hand jobs and living from day to day.
But with more active cell phone connections than people, there are big opportunities to change the game. By 2019, 10% of the population was already using cryptocurrencies to make payments. Leah Callon-Butler, the director of Emfarsis Consulting in Clark, says fintech can dramatically change lives in the country:
“People are just like, ‘Whoa, mind blown — this is going to save me half a day because I don’t have to go all the way to the bank during business hours and take three journeys on public transport and then wait in line for an hour and cash the damn thing and then go all the way home. I could do this on my phone.’”
Callon-Butler was herself unbanked when she arrived in the Philippines in 2018 to work with the local staff for an international crypto project. Like many, she turned to the blockchain based Coins.ph platform. “Coins.ph changed my life,” she says, adding: “I realized I could use it to deposit Bitcoin or Ethereum and I could buy mobile load, I could pay bills, transfer money to other people, it was just a lifesaver. It’s very easy to use and very customer centric.”
Crypto makes life easier
In the past two years alone, Coins.ph claims to have doubled its user base to 10 million people, out of a total adult population of 72 million. Founded in 2014, it seeks to make digital transactions easy, with users able to sign up quickly with a mobile phone, email address and ID selfie and then withdraw or deposit cash at 33,000 retail partners. The app offers banking, bill payments, remittances and online shopping, all using either pesos or cryptocurrency.
A spokesperson for the company told Magazine that more people had started using the platform since the beginning of the pandemic: “We’re starting to see a positive shift as digital payments gain traction – a trend accelerated by the global pandemic,” they added: “More people are adapting to crypto, online banking and more.”
Blockchain is also helping undercut the high cost of remittances. Around 10% of the GDP of the Philippines comes from the 10 million expatriate Filipinos who work overseas and send money back home to support their families. But wiring money via traditional routes comes with high fees — an average of 6.9% for a $200 transfer — leaving a big market opportunity for companies including PDAX, BloomX, SendFriend, Rebit and Coins.ph to transfer funds for a fraction of the cost using crypto, that can be withdrawn as cash at thousands of shops. The spokesperson says:
“We’re seeing growing interest amongst users in using crypto as a convenient option to transact – particularly cross-border. We see digital remittances – including blockchain-based remittance – as a significant opportunity. COVID-19 is a key driver of the growth we’re seeing, but we expect this trend will continue beyond the pandemic.”
Coins.ph would not provide a breakdown on the number of users who transact in cryptocurrencies, versus those who use fiat. But Mike Mislos, founder of the local Bitpinas crypto news website, estimates that it’s a significant proportion. “I’m also part of some groups on Facebook and like half the people are using it for normal financial transactions and half the people are also using it for cryptocurrencies,” he told Magazine.
2023 goals you can bank on
The increase in user numbers at Coins.ph comes in the context of a wider drive to overhaul the economy. Realizing how inefficient the current cash-based, unbanked economy is, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has unveiled an ambitious roadmap with a goal for 2023 of getting 70% of citizens a bank account, and switching 50% of retail payments to digital.
The pandemic has accelerated progress on this front, due to the “general community quarantine” and “enhanced community quarantine” restrictions that have kept many people at home since March. Around 14 million people in Manila have been under strict rules for almost eleven months now with the latest deadline due to expire, and likely extended once again, on January 31. The Philippines has seen half a million cases and just under 10,000 deaths.
“It appears the target has been accelerated because of the pandemic because there’s absolutely no choice but to do the transactions online because of lockdown,” as Mislos explained.
Bigger than payments
The local blockchain industry isn’t just confined to exchanges and remittances though. There’s payroll service Paylance, real estate transaction platform Qwikwire, and a coworking space BlockchainSpace, that also offers industry events and training. Manila gaming company Altitude Games is fast becoming a local leader in blockchain-based virtual worlds, creating the NFT-powered Battle Racers game for Decentraland and has Mushroom Mania for The Sandbox in development.
One of the most well-known companies is Satoshi Citadel Industries which has been developing its blockchain ecosystem since 2014. Services include remittances (Rebit) crypto purchases and a wallet (Buy Bitcoin, BTC Wallet) and international stock purchasing platform (Keza).
Even Binance is making a push into the Philippines, having hired Coins.ph’s former head of cryptocurrency Colin Goltra as country director, and launching P2P Bitcoin trading with pesos in the summer of 2020. Binance also acquired a local payments company Swipe, to launch crypto to fiat credit cards in various regions around the world.
Mislos says there was probably more interest in crypto in the Philippines than elsewhere in the region, with the exception Singapore and Vietnam. He cites favorable regulations, including a regulatory sandbox for emerging companies, as part of the reason. “I think more people are interested in cryptocurrencies than other countries here in South East Asia,” he says, adding:
“The regulations from the central bank are more welcoming. I don’t think there are many more countries in the world who have as much potential and regulatory clarity at the moment as the Philippines.”
In July, Union Bank teamed up with exchange PDAX to enable everyone, including the unbanked, to invest in retail Treasury bonds with as little as $100 via blockchain at Bonds.ph. The government is also in the process of fine turning regulations with the Blockchain Digital Technology Act.
But not everything is full speed ahead for cryptocurrency in the Philippines. While the central bank has seriously examined a CBDC or ‘digital peso’ it recently shelved plans to launch one until at least 2023.
There was also considerable excitement in 2018 over a partnership between a developer and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority to build the ‘Crypto Valley of Asia‘, situated about 400km north of Manila. While dozens of international blockchain and fintech companies have reportedly received licenses, and an $80 million airport was announced in early 2020, things have gone quiet in recent months.
“During this pandemic, I don’t think they are able to focus on that,” Mislos says. “But the last time I checked they were still on.” So it seems this will be a long term project, with three phases planned to roll out over ten years.
What does this year hold?
With 2021 already upon us, will this year see an improvement in the country’s fortunes? Sadly, the signs don’t appear that promising with Moody’s Analytics predicting that due to “deep recession and uncertain fiscal support of policy makers”, the Philippines will be the last country in the Asia Pacific to recover from the pandemic’s economic effects.
Adding to their woes, the Philippines is pinning its Covid-19 relief hopes on 50 million doses of the Chinese made Sinovac, which is reportedly not only less effective than other vaccines, but only a third of Filipinos are willing to take it. So for the time being, the shift to remote work and digital transactions seems to be a necessity rather than a choice.
Part Two of our ‘Crypto in the Philippines’ special report lands next week and looks at the ethics of hiring offshore Filipino employees for international blockchain projects.
Unlike Dogecoin, Catecoin Gives a New Meaning to Meme Coins with Real Use case
In the present-day connected world, memes have become an integral part of our pop culture. While one can’t put a monetary value on the entertainment they provide, its creators can definitely be encouraged and rewarded for their contribution towards a lively internet.
Catecoin, the first decentralized meme-based token is trying to do just by incentivizing content creators as well as consumers. The project is the first of its kind to implement DeFi features in the content space. Fueled by the CATE token, the project offers a platform for user-generated content, quite similar to 9GAG but on a blockchain, along with content farming and staking features.
How does it work?
Using the Catecoin ecosystem is as simple as using any social network platform. Content creators can submit their creations to the Catecoin Meme Platform and once published they will start earning CATE rewards as the community likes or comments on that content. Even platform users who interact with the posts will receive rewards for their comments and likes.
Meanwhile, the posts are evaluated based on the received reactions. Any post with 500 or more likes from the community will become eligible for a transformation into an NFT and get listed on the NFT market. Catecoin refers to this entire process as Content Farming and has set aside 35% of CATE supply for this alone.
CATE is the utility token of the Binance Smart Chain-based Catecoin project. Apart from value exchange, these tokens also control the accessibility of the platform. Users should hold a minimum of 10,000 CATE to interact with any posts on the platform. Similarly, content creators will have to maintain a balance of 100,000 CATE to be able to submit their works to the platform.
While each like or comment will result in both content creators and consumers receiving 0.1 CATE each, the community can also earn additional returns by just holding the tokens. The platform shares one percent of each transaction made on the network with CATE holders, and at the same time burns the same amount to regulate supply.
Once a meme gets converted to NFT and lists on the NFT market, anyone can purchase it and start receiving any rewards the asset may generate in the future.
Get some CATE, it is simple
In just a few simple steps, one can become part of the Catecoin community early on. CATE is listed on PancakeSwap and users can acquire the tokens against BNB payment. Buying CATE will require users to download and set up Trust Wallet and MetaMask accounts and hold some BNB in their wallets. They can then visit PancakeSwap, make payment in BNB to the Catecoin token 0x118f073796821da3e9901061b05c0b36377b877e and receive the tokens in their connected wallet.
— CateCoin (@cateclub) May 13, 2021
What Makes CATE Different?
The flood of meme coins into the crypto market started long ago, and Dogecoin is the prime example. Many of these coins have a virtually unlimited supply and no real use cases. On the other hand, CATE has a definite supply of 100 trillion and a deflationary mechanism that reduces the supply by 0.5%-1% per transaction while providing a real-world use case – encouraging meme creators to monetize their content. The model adopted by Catecoin makes it the most sustainable meme project out there.
Amid Rumors Of Dumping Its BTC Holdings, Elon Musk Maintains Tesla Hasn’t Sold Any Bitcoin
Elon Musk has been dragged under the bus by countless bitcoin proponents as the price of the flagship currency continues to take a downward movement. Bitcoin dropped 20%, sending prices to $45,000 as of yesterday.
As of publication, Bitcoin imitates analysts’ predictions that the asset could continue to dip for the most part of this week, and with Bitcoin now trading at $45,065 at press time, their analysis remains valid.
The Bitcoin selloff continues
Asides from the “bearish” tweets from Musk, which to many is simply just the Billionaire’s expression of his dissatisfaction with Bitcoin, Bitcoin could sustain more losses if Tesla sold its remaining Bitcoin holdings.
Following Tesla’s announcement, onlookers spotted a Bitcoin transfer of 19,259, worth over $872 million at press time. Analyst William Clemente observed that the transfer time coincided with Musk’s tweet, hinting that Tesla may have indeed called it a day for Bitcoin.
Musk reveals Tesla’s $1.5 billion holdings still intact, prices soar
However, Musk has recently cleared the air on whether the Bitcoin holdings are still under Tesla’s belt. In what could be considered the most recent positive tweet from Musk on Bitcoin, he wrote “To clarify speculation, Tesla has not sold any Bitcoin.”
Some excited Bitcoiners are holding on to the news as a sign that Tesla has not lost all interest in Bitcoin, despite Musk’s tweets that Dogecoin is a superior asset to Bitcoin. On the other hand, skeptical Bitcoiners are convinced that in a matter of time, Tesla will pull through with its Bitcoin sale.
Recall that Elon Musk teased that this could be the case, given that Bitcoin proponents have continued to critique Tesla’s decision. Shortly after hinting that Tesla might give up its $1.5 billion Bitcoin holdings.
However, Bitcoin has since surged by 7% since Musk’s clarification on Tesla’s Bitcoin holdings.
Bitcoin doesn’t need Elon Musk
Meanwhile, analysts’ who heavily bought the dip have insisted that Bitcoiners pay no mind to the bear market.
In unison, key players agree that “Bitcoin doesn’t need Musk. Rather, Musk needs Bitcoin.” It is unclear where the market is headed going forward, but the sentiments from top Bitcoin proponents similarly claim that the bear trend is only temporary, as Bitcoin is still yet to bottom.
Elon Musk tweets BTC price bottom? 5 things to watch in Bitcoin this week
Bitcoin (BTC) is nearing $40,000 this week as “Dogefather” Elon Musk deals out pure pain to hodlers — what’s next?
After a traumatic weekend for many crypto investors, Monday is setting the stage for the next chapter in the wild 2021 bull market.
Cointlegraph takes a look at five factors which could shape what Bitcoin and altcoins do next.
Musk tweet hits key Bitcoin technical level
It’s all about one man yet again this week: Elon Musk. In characteristic fashion, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO caused uproar on Twitter when he came out bearish on Bitcoin.
BTC/USD sold off immediately on news that Tesla was halting BTC payments for its products, but for Musk, this was not enough.
Further tweets over the weekend, including criticism of Bitcoin’s decentralization and how he “believes in crypto,” added fuel to the fire.
It was a hint that Tesla may already be planning to sell its holdings, however, that caused the most misery. Bitcoin fell to near $42,000, retesting this previous all-time high level before steadying as Musk stressed that no sale had occurred.
“To clarify speculation, Tesla has not sold any Bitcoin,” he wrote on Monday.
With Musk versus the cryptocurrency community beginning to look like a full on war, Bitcoin is thus unsurprisingly volatile as all eyes remain on the Twitter battlefield.
At the time of writing, Bitcoin was trading at around $44,800, still down 8.7% over the past 24 hours.
As analyst Alex Krueger noted, however, the clarifitication tweet may be unwittingly acting as a local bottom signal, as Musk posted it just as BTC/USD hit a key 61.8 Fibonacci retracement level.
“Elon Musk must be an outstanding technical analyst,” he commented.
“His ‘Tesla has not sold any Bitcoin’ tweet was posted exactly at Bitcoin’s key technical level, the 61.8 fib ($42,845).”
BTC dominance falls below 40%
Musk’s activities have had a detrimental impact on Bitcoin and altcoins alike.
In terms of bearishness, however, nothing shows how much the average Bitcoin holder is suffering like market dominance.
On Monday, Bitcoin’s overall market cap share dipped below 40% for the first time since June 2018.
Already on the way out, dominance was dealt a significant blow thanks to the recent Bitcoin price pressure, while alts such as Ether (ETH) benefitted.
“The Bitcoin dominance is still falling,” popular Twitter trader The Moon summarized over the weekend.
“The alt season is not over yet. But my gut feeling is that the end is near!”
Bitcoin fundamentals provide calm
For all the nerveracking price action, meanwhile, nothing provides a bullish counterpoint to the current Bitcoin narrative than its network fundamentals.
Even after its $42,000 dip, Bitcoin is more attractive than ever for miners, and its network security is therefore also more solid than ever before.
As Cointelegraph reported, both hash rate and difficulty have staged a miraculous recovery in recent weeks, reclaiming all-time highs after a miner washout caused its own brief price crash.
The weekend proved to be no different, with weekly average hash rate topping 180 exahashes per second (EH/s) for the first time.
Difficulty is still on track to increase by over 10% at the next automated readjustment in 11 days’ time. The previous readjustment on May 14, at 21.5%, was the largest positive shift since June 2014.
“Bitcoin’s mining difficulty hitting an all-time high just after tesla’s announcement is a chef’s kiss,” Alex Thorn, head of firmwide research at crypto merchant bank Galaxy Digital, said last week.
Dollar bounces at support
Taking a break for crypto-specific triggers, the wider macro picture may yet provide some inspiration for price trajectory.
After plunging late last week, the strength of the U.S. dollar is returning. The U.S. dollar currency index (DXY) is bouncing off familiar support — surges in its strength tends to provide teething problems for BTC/USD.
At the same time, stocks are bullish in China but performing averagely in Europe and the U.S. Coronavirus, with localized peaks in some jurisdictions but fewer cases in others, joins the melting pot.
Among traders, however, it is inflation that is a key issue. A broad global rebound from the time of lockdowns and other restrictions creates problems for those attempting to engineer it — specifically, the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks.
“The global economic recovery is well under way; that’s what’s fueling the inflation fears,” Olivier d’Assier, Qontigo head of APAC applied research, told Bloomberg.
After stock markets’ rip roaring year, he added, appetite for profit taking will be understandably increasing.
Bitcoin still beats its last bull market
Is it 2013 or 2017 in terms of the Bitcoin bull market?
Among the industry’s best-known names, there is no hint of bearishness — all that remains to do is analyze the nature of the current retracement and compare it to years past.
This week, stock-to-flow creator PlanB notes that for all the Musk drama, Bitcoin is still performing better than during its 2017 run to $20,000. This despite the $42,000 dip officially being Bitcoin’s biggest this bull cycle and since the cross-asset crash of March 2020.
“It’s not a straight line to the next ATH, but a lot of volatility (multiple -30% dips). HODL.”
Calling for calm and zooming out is a key feature among seasoned Bitcoiners. As Cointelegraph reported last week, stock-to-flow remains unviolated by Musk or any other episode of downward volatility.
An accompanying survey meanwhile revealed that a majority of 35,000 respondents believe that BTC/USD will still hit $100,000 this year.
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