Senator Chiz Escudero has urged the Senate to pass the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) before the deadline given by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).
According to Escudero, Senate Bill No. 1468 is a mere component of the committee report he previously sponsored.
The bill, which was approved on second reading, seeks to put more teeth into the existing AMLA by including the casino industry under the coverage of the law.
In its plenary meeting last September, APG decided to give the Philippines until June 2017 to pass the required legislation, said the seasoned legislator, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies.
The inclusion of casinos in the AMLA coverage is one of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog, to avoid the potential blacklisting of the Philippines.
“Failure to enact the required legislation within the given time frame would put the Philippines under monitoring of the International Review Group of the FATF, which could eventually result in the possible blacklisting of the Philippines,” the veteran lawmaker said.
Moreover, he said the blacklist tag would put the country under stringent international financial scrutiny, which might increase the cost of bank transactions abroad. Unfortunately, this would highly affect the remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
Last year, the country “barely escaped” the FATF blacklist after hackers stole $81 million from the account of Bangladesh Bank in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and was then diverted to four fake bank accounts in the Philippines.
“The heist therefore highlighted a vulnerable aspect in our anti-money laundering efforts and underlined the FATF’s conditions with regard to casinos,” the senator from Bicol said in his sponsorship speech.
In 2012, the Philippines made progress after it upgraded from FATF’s dark gray list to its gray list.
However, in 2013, even after the enactment of Republic Act No. 10365–which further strengthened the anti-money laundering drive and removed the Philippines from the FATF’s list of vulnerable jurisdictions–casinos were still not put under the scrutiny of the law.
Under the proposed measure, Escudero said casinos, with respect to their casino cash transactions related to their gaming operations, shall be considered as “covered persons.” A single casino cash transaction involving an amount in excess of P5 million or its equivalent in any other currency will be considered as a “covered transaction.”