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MAR 9, 2024

Further details emerge on Philippine CBDC project

by CoinNess Global

The Philippines is on track to finalize Project Agila, its wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC) trial, by the end of this year.

Three primary use cases

That’s according to statements made on March 6 by Deputy Governor Mamerto Tangonan of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) —  the Philippine central bank. According to a local news report by GMA News, the Deputy Governor outlined three primary use cases for the wholesale CBDC trials in a press conference: interbank settlement, settlement of securities transactions and cross-border payments.
Notably, the Philippines is participating as an observer in the cross-border CBDC project mBridge, which involves China, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Six domestic institutions are involved in the current tests in the Philippines: BDO Unibank, China Banking Corp, Land Bank of the Philippines, Rizal Commercial Banking, Union Bank of the Philippines and Maya Philippines.

Using pilot as ‘learning exercise’

Tangonan described the pilot as a "learning exercise in order to put us in a better position to assess whether this technology is what, itself, claims to be.”
Typically, central bank accounts are restricted to commercial banks and some central counterparties in financial markets. However, the BSP intends for the wholesale CBDC to be accessible to banks and certain financial institutions. Nevertheless, past tests, including one in Canada, have highlighted potential limitations, such as the inability of brokers to use the wholesale CBDC for settlement.

An ongoing interest since 2020

The Philippines initially expressed interest in issuing a CBDC in 2020, with the BSP Monetary Board conducting a positive initial assessment of a wholesale CBDC and planning pilot tests from 2022 onwards, known then as Project CBDCPh. The launch of the pilot project was announced in April 2022.
In 2023, the Southeast Asian country participated in a pilot study with the Digital Dollar Project, Western Union and BDO Unibank to explore a retail CBDC for remittance purposes. While the study found potential cost reductions and increased transparency and competition, it also identified challenges related to transaction speed, particularly due to most remittances arriving after working hours.

Moving away from blockchain

Last September, the BSP announced plans to utilize the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain. However, in February, Governor Eli Remolona stated that the CBDC would not be utilizing blockchain technology. At that time, the central bank Governor had indicated the expectation of launching a wholesale CBDC either next year or by 2026.
Elsewhere in the Asian region, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) recently announced its own wholesale CBDC trials, Project Ensemble, underscoring the growing interest and activity in CBDC development across various jurisdictions. The Chinese autonomous territory is also cooperating with its colleagues in mainland China in participating in testing of the digital yuan or e-CNY, with a particular focus on cross-border payments.
India represents another key Asian nation which has devoted quite a lot of time and resources to CBDC development already. However, a report last month suggested that the world’s most populous country has concerns with regard to the question of privacy relative to CBDC use. For that reason, it has determined the need to remain cautious while continuing CBDC development.
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