Imee: Amend Amla By October Or Risk Int’l Sanctions

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Senator Imee Marcos warned that the Philippines has six months left to amend the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) or risk facing international sanctions that will dampen confidence in the country’s business environment and political stability.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said the country is in the middle of a 12-month observation period set by the world’s anti-money laundering body, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“Pagdating ng Oktubre, dapat may karagdagang ngipin na ang AMLA at baka mabansagan na naman tayong ‘non-cooperative country’ o kaya ‘high-risk jurisdiction,’ gaya nang nangyari noong 2001 bago maisabatas ang AMLA,” Marcos said.

The entry of billions of pesos worth of foreign currency in recent months has revived concerns about laundered money being used to set up illegal businesses for gambling, human trafficking, prostitution, and illegal drug dealing, and to fund anti-government and terrorist activities.

Possible AMLA amendments Marcos is considering in a draft bill are to give the Anti-Money Laundering Council “more teeth” to investigate suspicious transactions without being hindered by restraining orders from the lower courts, to add real estate developers and brokers to the list of persons covered by the law, and to consider tax crimes and violations of the Strategic Trade Management Act (RA 10697), or the law against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their financing, as predicate offenses to money laundering.

If the Philippines fails to pass FATF scrutiny and is marked as a threat to the international financial system, banking sanctions may again be imposed on OFW remittances and slow down their crucial contribution to the country’s foreign currency reserves, Marcos said.

Foreign countries may also impose stricter and longer due diligence checks on Philippine companies, affecting the ease of doing business, Marcos added.

The additional costs that will be incurred from stricter business requirements may also force banks to apply higher interest rates, which in turn will raise production costs for local businesses, making both of them less competitive.