Philippine regulators’ move to remove Binance from app stores gets mixed reaction

Category: Asia Blockchain Crypto

Blockchain and crypto industry leaders in the Philippines weigh in on the recent move of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to remove Binance applications from Google and Apple app stores. 

Last week, the Philippine securities regulator had initiated proceedings with Google and Apple to remove applications operated by cryptocurrency giant Binance from their respective app marketplaces. Letters dated April 19 were sent to both Google and Apple, urging them to take down Binance-controlled applications from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, respectively. 

Concerns raised by SEC

“The SEC has identified [Binance] and concluded that the public’s continued access to these websites/apps poses a threat to the security of the funds of investing Filipinos,” Emilio Aquino, SEC Chairperson said in the letter. 

Aquino added that the sale or offer of unregistered securities to Filipinos, coupled with operating as an unregistered broker, violates Republic Act No. 8799, also known as The Securities Regulation Code. 

Preventive measures

Aquino stated that removing and blocking Binance applications would serve to curb the proliferation of its illegal activities within the country. This action aims to safeguard the investing public from the adverse effects on the Philippine economy caused by unauthorized investment solicitation activities. 

Previous actions by the SEC

This move follows a prior request made by the SEC to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block access to Binance’s websites in the Philippines, aiming to halt its unauthorized investment solicitation activities. The SEC had cautioned the public against engaging in investment and trading activities with Binance as early as November 2023. 

Binance’s operations and warning

Binance offers a wide array of financial instruments and investment products through its platform, including spot trading, futures contracts, option contracts, and cryptocurrency savings accounts. Despite its expansive offerings, Binance has not obtained a licence from the SEC to solicit investments from the public or operate an exchange for buying and selling securities, as mandated by the Securities Regulation Code. 

Binance’s reassurance to Filipino traders

In an open letter, Binance emphasized the security of their funds and the integrity of transactions despite the app’s removal. It also said it has ongoing efforts to resolve the situation favourably and that this is temporary. 

“We want to assure you that your funds are secure, and the integrity of your transactions remains our top priority. The removal of our app from Google and Apple stores does not affect the safety of your assets,” Binance said in the letter. 

Impact on Philippines’ crypto industry

Speaking to AIBC News, Arlone Polo Abello, known as Coach Miranda Miner and Founding Chairman of Innovative Movement of the Philippine Association of Crypto Traders (IMPACT) said this move from the SEC will have a chilling effect on the cryptocurrency traders, but more especially on the unregistered crypto exchanges in the Philippines. 

“There is a growing acceptance of the need for these exchanges to be registered going forward,” Abello said. “Similar actions like the ones in Thailand most recently, where they are going to ban unauthorized and unregistered exchanges, are creating a norm in the Southeast Asian region, particularly on how traders can expect regulators in the future to act towards their exchanges.” 

As for Filipino traders, Abellos said other exchanges are options too. 

“One of the things that the traders today are doing is just repurposing their funds to other exchanges that may or may not necessarily be regulated in the Philippines. So, we have Coins.PH, GCrypto, or PDAX that are authorized as of today where you could convert your fiat to crypto,” Abello said. 

“In our own perspective, this is going to set the tone over the next couple of months, even years, particularly on SEC, putting their hands on ensuring that all the platforms, not just for crypto, but even Forex, go ahead and register their platforms in the Philippines. Ultimately, this is going to be good for Filipinos,” he concluded. 

Meanwhile, Rafael Padilla, lawyer and author of Fintech, First Laws and Principles, urged both Google and Apple to take the fair and reasonable approach of hearing other concerned parties before blocking Binance’s mobile app. 

“Considering the sweeping one-sided claim of the SEC that Binance is violating Philippine securities law, Google and Apple should instead wait for this issue to be settled in court, instead of giving in to SEC’s request that only encourages the agency to continue its spaghetti-at the-wall enforcement strategy,” Padilla said.