Philippines averts blacklisting over money laundering issue
MANILA THE Philippines said on Saturday it had avoided an international blacklist on money laundering and terrorist financing after passing two new laws this month.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body, has upgraded the Philippines to its “grey list” of countries making sufficient progress in their action plans, Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
She said the FATF “has recognised the reforms instituted by the Philippine government, by upgrading the Philippines from the ‘dark grey list’ to its ‘grey list’.” “These reforms prevented the Philippines from being classified and downgraded to the ‘black list’, which would have resulted in stricter inspections of financial transactions in the country, delayed remittances, and higher transaction fees” she said in a statement.
The FATF made the upgrade after the Philippine government enacted two of three bills it had demanded to keep the country from falling into the “black list”. The measures were passed on June 6 expanding powers to investigate bank accounts, but Congress failed to agree on a third bill to allow greater inspection of non-bank entities.
The FATF was established by various governments in 1989 to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
The FATF looked past the Philippines’ failure to pass a third measure widening the coverage of number of crimes that would justify inquiries by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Valte said the country was previously on the “dark grey list,” which refers to countries not making sufficient progress, and is now on the “grey list,” which signifies that the Philippines is making sufficient progress in addressing deficiencies in its action plan against money laundering.
“According to Central Bank of the Philippines’ Governor Amando Tetangco’s report, the FATF took notice of the passage of key legislative reforms certified as urgent by the President,” Valte said, referring to the Act ‘To Further Strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Law and the Terrorism Financing Prevention And Suppression Act of 2012’.
Valte said these new laws strengthened the capability of the government to identify and prevent financial transactions related to illegal activities and those that undermine global security.
“Transparency and accountability are among the foremost guiding principles of the Aquino administration. And while we recognise that more needs to be done to strengthen our existing anti-money laundering and anti-financial terrorism measures, we take the satisfaction expressed by the FATF as affirmation of the institutional reforms that we have constantly advocated,” she added.
The FATF levied a blacklist threat earlier this year, calling for greater state powers to make it easier to scrutinise bank accounts, as well as casinos, foreign exchange traders and other non-bank entities.
The FATF was not immediately reachable for verification on Saturday and its website still listed the Philippines as among the countries not making sufficient progress.
The Philippines’ Anti- Money Laundering Council said the FATF had urged Manila to include bribery, public funds misuse, human trafficking, tax evasion and environmental crimes as grounds for a financial investigation.
The FATF is made up of 187 member countries with the aim of making the international financial system off-limits to criminals.