Coin hoarding soon a crime?

Coin collectors beware.

Senator Manuel Lapid has filed a bill to penalize the hoarding of coins to avoid coin shortage.

Citing figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Lapid said there should be around 17.34 billion coins--worth around P18.94 billion--in circulation. He said that would mean around 184 coins per Filipino.

"To enterprising crooks, this volume of coins in circulation is a goldmine. Recent valuation of the worth of the country's coinage suggests four of the coins are worth more than their face value if melted," he said in his explanatory note.

Lapid warned that melting down coins "along with the common practice of keeping coins in piggy banks, commercial undertakings such as the Automatic Tubig Machines which use coins for operation, video games machines and illegal numbers games, may threaten the sound circulation of coins in the country."

His bill defines coin hoarding as possessing coins of legal tender "beyond the requirements of his regular business as may be determined by the BSP."

Although coin collecting is allowed, the BSP can demand that people turn in all their coins within a month of declaring a coin shortage. Under the Lapid bill, "failure to make the surrender within the required period shall constitute coin hoarding."

The bill proposes a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of P100,000 "for every one thousand pieces of coins hoarded or a fraction thereof."

If passed into law, the bill allows the government to confiscate the coins for its own use.

The bill also proposes to allow BSP, in case of a coin shortage, to require all business transactions to be done in coins. "Any transaction to the contrary shall be considered coin hoarding," his bill reads.

"Though the day may be far when we may legally accept being given candies for change instead of coins, such a problem may not be remote as indicated by reports in other jurisdictions. It is thus imperative that preventive measures be put in place," Lapid said.

BSP has had a coin recirculation program since 2005 to address perceived coin shortages in some areas in the Philippines and to save money because the “intrinsic value of the coin is greater than its nominal value especially for the lower-denominated coins.”

“Coins are kept inside bank vaults, in piggy banks, inside drawers, used as washers, or thrown away as inconvenience,” the BSP said.

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