FEB 13, 2024
Philippines to move forward with CBDC without blockchain
The Philippines’ central bank has confirmed it has no plans to issue a retail version of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) but that it has definite plans to introduce a wholesale-level CBDC, albeit without using blockchain as the underlying technology.
Avoiding retail-level bank run risk
The bank expressed concerns that a retail CBDC could potentially trigger bank runs, given the velocity at which digital currency can be transacted. However, in an interview with local media outlet, the Inquirer, the central bank governor Eli Remolona clarified that within the next two years, the country has definite plans to roll out a wholesale CBDC.
CBDCs come in retail and wholesale forms, with the former accessible to the general public and the latter exclusively for institutional use. While the Philippines central bank initiated an exploratory study previously relative to CBDC use, concerns have been raised by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) about the readiness of institutions to handle the risks associated with CBDCs.
Despite this move, the bank does not intend to utilize blockchain or digital ledger technology, which are fundamental to many virtual assets.
“Other central banks have tried blockchain, but it didn’t go well.”
Instead, the CBDC will operate on a payment and settlement system owned by the central bank, with a focus on wholesale transactions mediated by banks. This marks a shift in the central bank’s approach to underlying technology where a CBDC is concerned.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) initially embarked on an exploratory study regarding CBDCs in 2022, known as Project CBDCPh. Upon completion of that study, it followed up with a pilot project called Project Agila, concentrating on a wholesale CBDC.
Project Agila leaned on the use of the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain, considering it for use on the first wholesale CBDC. Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source blockchain framework hosted by the Linux Foundation. Companies like IBM, SAP and Intel have all contributed to the development of the enterprise-grade permissioned blockchain network. However, it appears that the BSP is shying away from using any type of blockchain-based solution in establishing its CBDC.
Regional steps towards CBDC use
The central bank of the Philippines is among several in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region that are working towards the introduction of a CBDC. Earlier this month an official from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) outlined that the central bank will move forward with CBDC development while working towards addressing privacy concerns that citizens may have with a digital rupee.
Towards the end of last month, the Japanese government, in collaboration with the Bank of Japan, appeared to be gearing up for the rollout of a CBDC. In a recent meeting between both parties, several legislative matters were identified as key to ensuring a smooth path to the unobstructed launch of a digital currency.
There has also been a lot of activity relative to attempts to utilize CBDCs for cross-border trade over the course of the past year. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country announced the first-ever use of its CBDC or digital dirham in a trade deal with China using mBridge, a multi-CBDC platform that supports peer-to-peer, cross-border payments in real time.