THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) hopes the country can exit the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “gray list” of jurisdictions under increased monitoring for “dirty money” risks within the next 12 months after failing to meet its original January 2023 goal.

“We have clearly missed the first deadline. The first deadline was this January. We are now given until January 2024,” BSP Governor Felipe M. Medalla told reporters on Tuesday.

The BSP chief said the country should show progress in enforcing laws to address money laundering and terrorist financing.

“The problem is enforcement, not legislation. Of course, the usual problem is identifying the real beneficiaries, but that’s no longer a major issue. The major issue is there are not a lot of persecutions and convictions,” Mr. Medalla said in a mix of English and Tagalog.

“What happens between now and then is much critical,” he added.

Global financial crime watchdog FATF put the country in its list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring for dirty money risks in June 2021.

In October 2022, it said the Philippines remains on the list and cited the need to further strengthen its action plan to address “strategic deficiencies” related to casino junkets, nonprofit organizations, and beneficial ownership.

To be removed from the list, the country committed to comply with 18 action plan items. Progress reports are submitted to the FATF in three reporting cycles in a year: January, May and September.

Mr. Medalla said most of the legislation part of the FATF’s action plan items for the Philippines have been addressed, as only amendments to the country’s deposit secrecy law have yet to be passed.

“We met with the Department of Justice (DoJ) and they told me, if we’re only more diligent in having a system that truly brings out all the real prosecution and conviction, the number (of cases) will be much higher. So that’s what we need to show. The solution requires a whole of government approach, not just the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) and not just the DoJ, but the law enforcement also,” Mr. Medalla said.

“I’m quite confident, given the early meetings with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla. The focus will be there to try our best to increase the chances so that by early next year, those problems have been met,” he added.   

Based on the FATF’s latest assessment, the Philippines needs to show it is implementing effective risk-based supervision of designated nonfinancial businesses and professions. These include jewelry dealers, real estate brokers and developers and service providers for financial businesses.

The dirty money watchdog also said the country has to improve monitoring controls to mitigate financial crimes associated with casino junkets.

It added that it will continue to track the country’s progress in ensuring beneficial ownership information is streamlined and up to date for better access of law enforcement agencies. — K.B. Ta-asan