Philippines intensifies efforts to exit ‘dirty money’ list

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines vowed to further intensify initiatives to address the remaining deficiencies in its regime to counter money laundering as well as terrorist and proliferation finan­cing, after it failed to meet last month’s deadline imposed by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) chairman Felipe Medalla said the country is hopeful it can exit the gray list of the global dirty money watchdog by January next year.

“Right now the key month is January next year, because that is the time they will again review it. Hopefully, we’ll be out,” Medalla said in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

FATF president T. Raja Kumar announced early Saturday that the Philippines was retained in the gray list or jurisdictions under increased monitoring after missing the January 2023 deadline to resolve remaining outstanding issues.

Kumar said the country failed to address 11 out of 18 action items since it was reincluded in the gray list in June 2021.

“So these are, you know, clear areas of deficiency, and I urge the Philippine government to press the accelerator and continue to, you know, put in the necessary resources, the high-level political commitment to essentially complete these remaining action items,” Kumar said in reply to a question from The STAR.

Medalla said the Philippines would ramp up enforcement actions, while government agencies hire more workers to expedite the filing of cases against money launderers and financiers of terrorism.

“We hope we are able to satisfy them with just better enforcement. We may have to hire people, but obviously it’s not going to be the AMLC that will hire people because if your problem is prosecution, filing cases, that has to be a line agency that has to do that,” Medalla said.

However, the AMLC chief is not discounting the possibility that the Philippines could stay longer in the gray list.

“Of course there is a possibility that it will take longer to get out, because some countries took four years to get out.  And they had to do a lot, like I was told, Pakistan actually ended up hiring 3,000 more people just to follow up all the investigations and filing of cases in the case of terrorist financing,” he said.

After the Philippines made a high-level political commitment in June 2021 to work with the FATF and Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) to strengthen the effectiveness of its anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime, the watchdog said the deadlines given to the Philippines have

now expired despite the country’s continued progress across its action plan.

According to the FATF, The Philippines should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies by demonstrating that effective risk-based supervision of DNFBPs is occurring; demonstrating that supervisors are using controls to mitigate risks associated with casino junkets; as well as enhancing and streamlining law enforcement agencies access to beneficial ownership information and taking steps to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date.