MANILA – Malacañang on Monday vowed to implement the government's action plans to address all anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) deficiencies of the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after the global dirty money watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has included the Philippines in its “gray list” of countries under increased monitoring because of its policies and laws against money laundering and terrorist financing.
According to the Anti-Money Laundering Council, these action plans include the amendment and passage of AML/CTF laws; enhancement of the AML/CTF supervisory framework; reinforcement of money laundering and terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and campaigns to increase public awareness.
"Tayo naman po ay nangako na ipatutupad iyong ating action plan kasama po noong pag-amyenda ng passage ng anti-money laundering at saka CTF laws, iyong enhancement ng ating AML at CTF supervisory framework, reinforcement of money laundering and terrorism financing investigation and prosecution and campaigns to increase public awareness," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque, however, noted that no countermeasures have been imposed as a result of the country's inclusion in the FATF’s “gray list.”
He said inclusion in the gray list usually means a country will have to comply with recommended reforms within a given time frame before the imposition of financial sanctions.
Inclusion in the FATF’s gray list will result in additional layers of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions, delayed processing of transactions, and clocking the country’s road to an “A” credit rating.
"So, wala pa pong desisyon. They will monitor our progress. So we have not been put under negative list, pareho pa rin po tayo, but they want to see further improvements," he said.
Roque agreed with the FATF that more efforts should be done to choke off the money that sustains the activities of the terrorist groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
“Well, obviously po, iyong CPP-NPA na terrorist group, mayroon pa ring pondo, so kinakailangan talaga, isarado natin kung sana nanggagaling iyong mga pondo nila (the CPP-NPA that is terrorist group, they still have funds, so it really is necessary that we close their sources of funds),” he said. “So, this is also to the benefit of the republic and we agree that more efforts have to be exerted para talagang mawalan ng pondo iyong mga teroristang iyan (for those terrorists to really lose funds).”
Bank secrecy law remains obsolete
House Ways and Means Committee chair Joey Salceda said the delay in the passage of the Bank Secrecy Law is the biggest obstacle to improvements in the country's FATF standing.
"Until our Bank Secrecy Law remains absolute, our financial monitoring and anti-money laundering regime will remain suspect," Salceda said.
Salceda said the country needs to demonstrate that effective risk-based supervision of designated non-financial businesses and professions is occurring and that supervisors are using AML/CFT filters to mitigate risks associated with casinos.
"The solution here is really to allow the non-financial sectors such as gaming to be within the reach of the financial sector, which is the most heavily regulated industry in the country," he said.
The FATF recommended that the country show an increase in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of terrorist financing cases.
Salceda stressed that military intelligence has to be "more sophisticated", especially when it comes to tracking where these terrorist groups get their money and how.
"It must not be all-in on monitoring ideology and recruitment alone. The ability of terrorist groups to inflict real harm depends on their sources of financing. So, we need more sophistication in the security sector," he said.
The FATF also recommended enhancing the effectiveness of the targeted financial sanctions framework for both terrorist and proliferation financing.
"Getting out of the gray list is doable, but we must show our seriousness in doing so. Getting rid of absolute bank secrecy is the first best step. The others are much easier to do," he said. (PNA)