PH hopes law will avert launder blacklisting

Posted at 02/16/13 8:33 PM

MANILA – The Philippines hopes to avoid being put on a blacklist of money-laundering havens after President Benigno Aquino signed a new law boosting safeguards against such crimes, his spokeswoman said Saturday.

The law brings the country up to international standards as required by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force which threatened to blacklist it, spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

"We're very hopeful that, with the passage of this particular law, the FATF will see we are really serious in our commitment to fight money-laundering," she told reporters.

Officials of the Philippine anti-money laundering council will leave soon for an FATF meeting in Paris to show that Manila was complying with their conditions, she said.

The law is aimed at preventing terrorists, corrupt officials, drug syndicates and human-traffickers from using the country as a hiding place for their ill-gotten gains, Valte said.

As demanded by the FATF, it broadens the definition of crimes covered and expands the businesses to be monitored for money-laundering beyond mere financial institutions such as banks.

The FATF had previously placed the Philippines on its "dark gray list" of jurisdictions deemed not to be making sufficient progress in fighting money-laundering and threatened to blacklist it in early 2012.

It called for greater state powers to make it easier to scrutinize bank accounts, as well as casinos, foreign exchange traders and other non-bank entities.

While the Philippines previously passed two crucial anti-money laundering laws in June, it only passed the third law sought by the task force this month.

The new law, signed by Aquino late Friday, also still spares casinos from coverage for fear this would scare off investors, lawmakers said.

The Philippines recently opened Entertainment City, an $4 billion Manila casino complex aimed at rivaling Macau, Las Vegas and Singapore as a gaming hub.

Asked if omitting casinos might have a negative effect, Valte said "we will make an evaluation first and then we'll move forward from there".

An FATF blacklist would make it difficult for millions of Filipinos working abroad to remit their earnings and also affect Filipinos seeking to invest overseas.

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