Casinos removed from list of covered institutions
MANILA, Philippines - A panel of senators and congressman on Tuesday approved the final version of a measure strengthening the country's anti-money laundering law by expanding the list of institutions that are required to report suspicious financial transactions to the government.
The final version of the bill, however, removes casinos from the list of covered institutions. The Senate's version included casinos in the list.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the bill's sponsor, said he gave in to the House contingent's demand that the provision be removed because time was running out. The House and the Senate have only one session day left to ratify the final version of the measure, and beat the deadline of an international body to avoid sanctions.
"It's better to have a law than no law at all," he told reporters after the bicameral conference committee's meeting.
Guingona said the proposed law may be ratified on Wednesday.
At the meeting, Rep. Sergio Apostol insisted that casinos be removed from the list of covered institutions, despite a proviso stating that they are required to report transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council only if there is actual knowledge and suspicion of money laundering regardless of the amount involved. Other institutions are required to report transactions amounting to at least P500,000.
Apostol said the requirement for casinos might scare away players.
"We are trying to attract big capital in this country," he said. "Where will the players be going? To Macau? To Singapore? We will be losing."
Guingona defended the provision, saying that striking out casinos from the list will leave a gaping hole in the law. But he relented in the end.
Aside from removing casinos from the list of covered institutions, the final version of the measure also requires the Land Registration Authority, instead of brokers and agents, to report transactions in the real estate sector.
Guingona hopes the measure would satisfy the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body that threatens to impose sanctions on financial transactions to the Philippines from member countries if the law is not passed.
If FATF blacklists the Philippines, the senator said overseas Filipino workers would experience delays and higher costs in sending home remittances.
The FATF's deadline for the law's passage is February 18, the same day it convenes its plenary meeting.