THE LOGO of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is seen at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France, Oct. 18, 2019. — REUTERS

By Keisha B. Ta-asan, Reporter

THE ANTI-MONEY Laundering Council (AMLC) said it continues to address the strategic deficiencies identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in its efforts against “dirty money” and terrorism financing, as the Philippines remained on the latter’s “gray list.”

“The remaining action plans for the Philippines focus on specific aspects of an effective anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism,” AMLC Executive Director Matthew M. David said in an e-mail.

In an Oct. 21 report, the FATF kept the Philippines on its gray list of jurisdictions subjected to increased monitoring for dirty money risks. It has been on the list since June 2021.

Government officials earlier expressed hope the Philippines will exit the gray list by January 2023.

The global financial crime watchdog in a statement on Friday evening said the country still needs to implement measures to address money laundering and terrorism financing risks related to casino junkets and beneficial ownership.

The Philippines should also enhance its use of financial intelligence and money laundering investigations and prosecutions in line with risk, according to the FATF.

On the other hand, the FATF acknowledged the Philippines’ progress in combating financial crimes in terms of policies related to nonprofit organizations (NPO) and implementing supervision for targeted financial sanctions.

“The FATF noted that the Philippines has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including by demonstrating that appropriate measures are being taken with respect to the NPO sector and implementing supervision for targeted financial sanctions. Continuous high-level and operational discussions are ongoing with the relevant agencies,” Mr. David said.

Mr. David said the government has been addressing the identified strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML-CTF) framework through its National AML/CFT Coordinating Committee (NACC).

“The NACC shall continue engaging with relevant government agencies to ensure that strategies and mechanisms are in place to address the action plans,” he said, adding that the AMLC will continue in assisting the NACC as its secretariat.   

As part of its recommendations, the FATF wants the Philippines to streamline law enforcement agencies’ access to beneficial ownership information.

Mr. David said Philippine law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are implementing measures to address the recommendations related to investigations and prosecutions.

“Supervisory agencies likewise have a role in risk-based supervision as guidelines are in place to examine and enforce AML/CFT controls such as a monitoring system to address the risks associated with casino junkets. Further, regulators ensure accurate and up-to-date (beneficial ownership) information,” Mr. David said.   

The Bangko Sentral ng Pillipinas (BSP) earlier said the proposed changes in the country’s Bank Secrecy Law will improve the Philippines’ efforts against money laundering, which could help the country exit the FATF gray list by January 2023.

The bill is expected to hurdle the House of Representatives by next month. House Bill No. 4313, which proposes amendments to Republic Act No. 1405 or the Bank Secrecy Law, has been pending with the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries since Sept. 6. 

It seeks to allow the BSP to examine deposits in relation to possible fraud, serious irregularity, or unlawful activity being committed by bank officials.

The FATF also said the Philippines should show an increase in the identification, investigation and prosecution of terrorism financing cases as well as enhance the effectiveness of the targeted financial sanctions framework for both terrorism financing and proliferation financing by demonstrating that designated nonfinancial businesses and professions understand their obligations.