Philippine Gov’t Cracks Down on Unlicensed Crypto Exchanges, Binance Still Accessible

Hassan Shittu
Last updated: | 2 min read
Philippine Gov't Cracks Down on Unlicensed Crypto Exchanges, Binance Still Accessible

The Philippine National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has initiated the blocking of websites belonging to crypto companies offering investment products without the necessary licenses in the country.

Despite the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) three-month countdown for banning unlicensed crypto trading platforms, Binance remains accessible in the country.

NTC Blocks Websites of Crypto Firms MiTrade and OctaFX Following SEC’s Request

The NTC has taken action to block websites and apps offering investment opportunities without the necessary license, following a request from the SEC. On March 7, local media Bitpinas reported that the websites of crypto firms MiTrade and OctaFX were inaccessible through one of the country’s largest internet providers following an order from the NTC issued on February 21.

In response to the SEC’s request, the NTC issued a memorandum to all internet service providers on February 21, instructing them to block the websites and apps of MiTrade for violations of securities regulations enforced by the SEC.

SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino expressed gratitude to the NTC for supporting their efforts to combat investment scams and protect the investing public. He emphasized the importance of such directives in preventing the proliferation of illegal investment activities.

Aquino highlighted that the NTC’s actions support their efforts against “predatory financial schemes” and protect investors in the country. He said,

“The SEC and NTC will continue to work closely together to take similar actions on other platforms facilitating illegal investment-taking activities and other predatory financial schemes.” 

Despite Warnings, Binance Remains Accessible in the Philippines as NTC Blocks Unlicensed Crypto Platforms

The Philippines’ NTC has initiated the blocking of unlicensed crypto trading platforms, yet Binance remains accessible in the country despite regulatory warnings. 

The SEC previously warned Filipino investors on November 28, advising them that the exchange is not authorized to sell or offer securities in the country. The announcement urged Binance to seek registration and provide adequate information about the securities it offered to comply with regulatory requirements.

In addition to operating without the necessary license, the SEC argued that Binance had been illicitly promoting its services in the country. The regulator warned that entities involved in promoting or trading on Binance may be held criminally liable under Section 28 of the SRC. This is a criminal offense that carries the penalty of a fine of up to 5 million Philippine pesos ($90,300), imprisonment of 21 years, or both, under Section 73 of the SRC, the statement notes.

In a December 2023 panel discussion, then-Commissioner Kelvin Lee explicitly mentioned that Binance, OctaFX, and MiTrade are candidates for the blocking. Lee said the internet has been very confused about the ban after regulators issued an advisory to the cryptocurrency exchange on November 28 for operating without a license.

He was asked to clarify the matter and that the ban was “supposed to be three months from the issuance date,” which he said was given on November 29.

“Depending on how feedback is, we can actually extend that, but currently, we should feel lucky with the three months.”

He said the original recommendation was one month, even a “one-week transition period,” but he decided on more time due to the Christmas holiday. “Not to make it hard for Filipino investors during that time,” he said. Lee indicated that the ban should have been enforced three months after issuance, implying a ban commencement on February 29. However, the SEC has not specified the implementation timeline.