MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe on Thursday asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to provide the Senate a written report on efforts to strike the Philippines off the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.
“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.
The senator pointed out that Congress already did its part in resolving the technical deficiencies of the law by amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
“Passing the necessary amendments to the law is one of the requirements under the mutual evaluation report which was duly met,” said Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies.
She also stressed that the AMLA reforms are important in protecting the earnings of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“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,” she 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. “OFW remittances always step in to buoy the local economy even in the middle of the pandemic.”
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), total money sent by Filipino migrant workers from January to April this year reached $9.9 billion. This is higher by 4.8 percent than the $9.4 billion remittance inflows in the same period last year.
The FATF, a Paris-based anti-money laundering watchdog, earlier added the Philippines to its grey list or countries under increased monitoring.
Poe said the failure to implement enhanced due diligence measures could lead to higher interest rates and processing fees, which could impact on the ordinary Filipinos, including OFWs in sending their remittances.
The inclusion in the list does not automatically subject the Philippines to countermeasures, the AMLC earlier said. However, the country needs to substantially comply with the needed reforms within a given time frame to avert the financial sanctions.
“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 said.
BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno, chairperson of the AMLC, earlier made a commitment to work with the FATF and the Asia Pacific Group toward the timely implementation of the action plans.
The country’s financial intelligence unit vowed to resolve the remaining strategic deficiencies, which are down to 18 from 70, to be stricken off the grey list.
Diokno said that the Philippines will make a report to the FATF on its progress three times a year starting this September, optimistic that the country will be taken off the grey list after completion of all action plans in two years.