Poe seeks AMLC explanation as PH lands anew in 'dirty money' watchlist

Published July 1, 2021, 5:28 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe on Thursday, July 1, asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for a report on its efforts and the challenges it is facing to have the Philippines removed from the list of countries tagged as high risk for money laundering and terrorist financing.

Senator Grace Poe

Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, made the appeal after the Philippines was again included in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list”.

The Congress, she noted, has already passed a law that would further strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in compliance with the FATF’s recommendations. President Duterte signed the Republic Act No. 11521 last January.

“We expect a substantial update from the AMLC on the concrete steps and direction we are taking to ensure progress on our compliance,” Poe said in a statement calling on the government body to submit to the Senate a written report.

Reforms in the AMLA, she said, are also “important in protecting the earnings of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)”. She stressed that their remittances would also help in reviving the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing a report from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Poe said total remittances sent by Filipino migrant workers from January to April this year reached $9.9 billion, higher by 4.8 percent than the $9.4-billion remittance inflows in the same period last year.

“We should not make it difficult for our OFWs to send hard-earned money to their loved ones. They must be spared of undue costs and delays in their remittances,” the senator said.

“Higher remittance charges mean less sustenance for the families of OFWs, and a week of delay in receiving the money impacts on the ability of their dependents back home to make both ends meet,” she added.

The Philippines was on the FATF’s grey list in 2012 and 2010, and was even blacklisted in 2000 for lack of anti-money laundering mechanisms.

Inclusion in the Paris-based watchdog’s grey list means higher interest rates and processing fees for Filipinos, as well as increased layers of scrutiny from financial institutions, resulting in delays.

The AMLC earlier said the inclusion does not automatically subject the Philippines to countermeasures, but the country needs to comply with the needed reforms and report its progress thrice a year to avoid sanctions. The BSP was also confident that the country will exit the grey list by January, 2023.

“The government must ensure that those who are earning lawfully and legally are not inconvenienced. We cannot afford to deal with more financial challenges as we reel from the brunt of the pandemic,” Poe appealed.