Speaker Velasco optimistic on avoiding FATF gray list as House ratifies AMLA amendments

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives ratified Wednesday the bicameral conference committee report on the bill that would further amend the country’s anti-money laundering law, ahead of the February 2021 deadline set by the Paris-based global dirty money watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the reconciled version of the bill, which introduces more stringent provisions to Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001, would help the Philippines avoid being included in the gray list of FATF-International Cooperation Review Group.

“We are glad that the bill is now just one step away from becoming a law and we are poised to beat the deadline for us to come up with a much stronger legislation against money laundering so we can avoid being placed on the FATF gray list,” Velasco said.

“The Philippines cannot afford to be in that list as it would further hurt the economy already struggling from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Inclusion in FATF’s gray list will result in additional layer of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions, delayed processing of transactions and blocking the country’s road to an “A” credit rating.

Just like President Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Velasco is particularly worried that the gray-listing would prejudice the business sector and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“We need to avoid adverse finding against the Philippines which could lead, among others, to increased cost of financial transactions, including OFW remittances,” Velasco said.

Velasco said the final version of the AMLA amendments will be sent immediately to the President for his signature.

The House chief commended the three-man House contingent to the bicameral conference committee—Reps. Junie Cua (Quirino, Lone District), Virgilio Lacson (Manila Teachers Party-list) and Stella Luz Quimbo (Marikina City, 2nd District)—for “successfully fulfilling its mission” to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 7904 and Senate Bill 1945.

The approved bicameral version had included tax crime as a predicate offense to money laundering and set a threshold to excess of P25 million.
The bicameral panel also agreed to require the submission of reports on all real estate transactions involving an excess of P7.5 million to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

It also retained the House provision granting the AMLC the power to investigate, issue subpoenas and conduct search and seizure.
The final version will now include Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs and their service providers among the covered persons.

The FATF has given the Philippine government until February 1 to enact and implement the changes to the AMLA, in accordance with its standards against money laundering and terrorist financing. The initial deadline was originally set in October 2020, but was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines was gray-listed by the FATF in 2000 for failing to address “dirty” money issues, paving the way for the enactment of RA 9160 in 2001. It was subsequently removed from the list in February 2005.

The FATF reportedly will decide in June instead of February 2021 whether or not the Philippines will be included in the watchdog’s gray list. Marinduquenews.com

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