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Project International Trade's Virtual Toolkit to Asia​

Philippines

The Philippines is the 13th largest country in the world by population (more than 109 million) and is the sixth-largest English-speaking country. Beyond this, it has one of the youngest populations in the world, with about 43% of the population under the age of 20. Since January of this year, 73.9m use the internet and 82.3m have a mobile phone.

In fact, the Philippines was one of the first nations in the world to make the move to digital payments (with the launch of mobile money in 2001). Yet, despite the country’s booming eCommerce market, which has an annual growth rate of 14.64%, and is projected to hit a market volume of US$8.8bn by 2025, Filipinos overwhelmingly prefer to use cash in 80% of e-commerce transactions and 71% of eligible adults remain unbanked.

However, the economy remains ripe for disruption and fintechs are starting to play a transformative role, notably the rapidly growing adoption of the emerging QR codes for digital transactions.

Recently, the Philippine central bank (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, BSP) reported that the use of e-payments had spiked more than 5,000% due to the pandemic, thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous use of “QR Ph” codes to move money between people and merchants. Local players PESONet and InstaPay reported huge surges in digital transactions this year, 15.3m (up by 376%) and 86.7m (up by 459%) respectively.

Notably, Filipinos have started to use digital payments to pay for bills (44%) and groceries (36%) as of November 2020, compared to an overall share of just 1% back in 2015.

Following these developments in the digital ecosystem and wider consumer behaviour, the Philippine central bank has set promising targets to convert 50% of the total volume of retail payments into digital by 2023.

Furthermore, despite the Philippines lagging behind its ASEAN neighbours when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment, it has seen recent surges in national investment. The Filipino government will be investing $4.4 billion in digital infrastructure over the next six years. Priority sub-sectors include cybersecurity, the cloud, and telecommunications.