As the US banking crisis and regulatory scrutiny continue to unfold, Bitcoin shows resilience by posting its third positive month in a row. This recent streak of positive gains for Bitcoin signals a strong outlook for the cryptocurrency, the lightning network, and the island of Boracay, as expressed by venture capitalists and government leaders during the first Bitcoin Island Retreat, which happened on March 27 to 29, 2023, at the Henann Regency Resort and Spa in Boracay Island.
Augie Ilag, HodlCo venture partner and former Sequoia Capital crypto investor, said that Boracay has the potential to revolutionize the remittance market using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
“With Boracay’s unique position as a popular tourist destination with a significant need for currency conversion, it has the potential to become a Bitcoin paradise and a model for other tourist destinations to follow,” Ilag said.
Boracay has become a beacon for Bitcoin adoption and innovation since mid-2022 as Bitcoin payments firm Pouch.ph has onboarded more than 250 locations to accept bitcoin as payment. Through the Bitcoin Lightning Network, Pouch.ph makes sending money to the Philippines faster, cheaper, and more accessible for people globally.
Ilag noted that the remittance market in the Philippines is massive, with over $30 billion being sent through traditional offline channels like Western Union, which often charge predatory rates of up to 7%, making it difficult for people to send money back home.
“Many foreigners come to Boracay and have a unique need to convert their home currency into domestic currency but do not have access to local e-money providers like GCash and Paymaya,” Ilag said. He believes that lightning payments such as Pouch.ph provide a unique solution to the problem of remittances.
“We are sitting at a unique point in time where we can take advantage of the latest technology to revolutionize the remittance market. Boracay can be at the forefront of this revolution,” Ilag noted.
Panelists Jack Lee of HCM Capital, Louis Liu of Mimesis Capital, and Mike Jarmuz of Lightning Ventures also hopped onto the stage to show their bullish stance towards Bitcoin and the Lightning Network.
For Liu, the Bitcoin infrastructure has significantly evolved since the 2008 crisis, with new exchanges and applications being built, and has the potential to become a hedge amid current global financial challenges.
Meanwhile, Lee and Jarmuz advised attendees to focus on learning about Bitcoin and expressed confidence in supporting early-stage founders and entrepreneurs in the Philippines’ Bitcoin space.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay reechoed this bullish sentiment towards Bitcoin in a separate panel discussion.
“I’m very bullish about Bitcoin. Every communication system is about speed; it’s about convenience, and it’s about having less friction. I’ve studied monetary systems for two and a half years, and only Bitcoin is the real money out there for the 21st century. Bitcoin is not simply a technology, but it is a language that is changing the way we view value,” said Hilbay, who also briefly discussed his book that provides a universal outline for studying Bitcoin.
As a dean at Siliman University, he aims to make Bitcoin a global subject and hopes that Silliman will become a Bitcoin-friendly university and that other universities around the world will follow suit. “We need to educate as many people as we can about Bitcoin because it’s the best lens for understanding what’s happening in the world today. Then, they get to decide what’s best for them,” Hilbay said.
The Bitcoin Island Retreat is organized by Pouch.ph together with crypto exchange and mobile wallet Coins.ph and edutech platform Bitskwela. Bitcoin maxis and plebs who attended the Bitcoin conference experienced living off of Bitcoin and realized the power of instant payment through the Lightning Network.
Pouch.ph also announced during the conference that it has tied up with ZEBEDEE, a global next-generation payments processor headquartered in New Jersey, USA, for a wider borderless transaction. With this, users around the globe can send and receive funds from any other Lightning wallet or service.
For instance, a user in the US may want to buy a coffee for a friend in the Philippines. They can now easily transfer funds from Cash App to their friend on the other side of the world, who can then immediately spend those funds to pay in pesos using Pouch.ph.
“We are thrilled to be a launch partner of ZEBEDEE for this new feature for borderless transactions, as it aligns perfectly with our vision for financial inclusion of the Philippines,” said Pouch.ph CEO Ethan Rose.
Early this year, Pouch.ph partnered with U.S. fintech firm Strike to allow Filipinos in the US to send money to the Philippines using the Lightning Network.