By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos on Sunday said she is eyeing several amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in order to prevent the Philippines from suffering international sanctions that could dampen investor confidence in the country.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said the country is in the middle of a 12-month observation period set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s anti-money laundering body based in Paris.
Failure to strengthen the AMLA, she said, could dampen confidence in the country’s business environment and political stability.
“Pagdating ng Oktubre, dapat may karagdagang ngipin na ang AMLA at baka mabansagan na naman tayong ‘non-cooperative country’ o kaya ‘high-risk jurisdiction,’ gaya nang nangyari noong 2001 bago maisabatas ang AMLA, (By October, our AMLA should have ‘more teeth’ or we might be accused again of being a ‘non-cooperative country’ or probably considered ‘high-risk jurisdiction, like what happened in 2001 before the AMLA was enacted into law,” Marcos said.
Marcos made the statement a few days after the Senate blue ribbon committee conducted a hearing on the entry of billions of pesos worth of cash into the country’s airports in recent months, supposedly by Chinese nationals involved in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations or POGOs.
This revived concerns about laundered money being used to set up illegal businesses for gambling, human trafficking, prostitution, and illegal drug dealing, and to fund anti-government and terrorist activities.
Marcos said she too is eyeing considerable amendments on the AMLA and is now drafting a bill that aims to give the said law “more teeth” to investigate suspicious transactions without being hindered by restraining orders from the lower courts.
The senator also said she is considering adding real estate developers and brokers to the list of persons covered by the AMLA.
The senator also said she is considering making tax crimes and violations of the Strategic Trade Management Act (RA 10697), or the law against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their financing, as predicate offenses to money laundering.
“If the Philippines fails to pass FATF scrutiny and is marked as a threat to the international financial system, banking sanctions may again be imposed on OFW remittances and slow down their crucial contribution to the country’s foreign currency reserves,” Marcos said.
Marcos added that foreign countries might also impose stricter and longer due diligence checks on Philippine companies, affecting the country’s ease of doing business.
“The additional costs that will be incurred from stricter business requirements may also force banks to apply higher interest rates, which in turn will raise production costs for local businesses, making both of them less competitive,” added the lawmaker.