MANILA, Philippines - Senators could quickly pass the remedial legislation expanding the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) when Congress reconvenes in November in order to avert sanctions being imposed by regulators on non-compliant countries, which may delay transmittal of letters of credit and dollar remittances to the country, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.
This, after Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. confirmed over the weekend that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) agreed to defer a decision to include the Philippines on its blacklist of non-compliant nations until the next FATF review in 2013.
The FATF, after being appraised by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) chief Vicente Aquino of ongoing congressional efforts to pass the required Amla amendments during its October 15-to-19 meeting, instead, issued a statement encouraging Philippine officials to “adopt more stringent standards in its anti-money laundering measures than are provided for in existing laws or risk consequences” beginning February next year.
Enrile told reporters on Monday that the senators can pass the bill even earlier than February, even as he took exception to implied threats of sanctions from the FATF.
“Palagay ko [we can pass the measure] maski nga ngayong November… pwede naman pag usapan kaagad ’yun, sandali lang ’yun, eh. Tinatalakay na namin ’yun noon, pero ’yung bibigyan kami ng deadline…for them to give us a deadline or else, hindi pwede ’yon. We are a sovereign country, eh. I am not willing to surrender the sovereignty of this country to anyone. Even if they are superpowers,” Enrile said.
In a separate interview, Sen. Serge Osmeña, who is sponsoring the Amla mendments with Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, observed that the Philippines was fortunate to have escaped the latest blacklist drawn up by the FATF at its meeting last week.
“Ang swerte natin, nakalusot tayo. But I dont think we can make lusot again in February,” Osmeña told reporters, noting that Aquino, the executive director of the AMLC, was able to convince the FATF in Paris that the Senate was making every effort to pass the Amla amendments, but that we just had a difficult time having missed six months of legislative work owing to the Corona impeachment trial; so they [FATF] just had to give us a little more time.”
“So it’s only October, sabi nila we have break, a Christmas break. So give us until the end of January. We will adjourn, I think, on February 8 for the campaign period,” he said.
Osmeña added: “So, the FATF agreed. They will keep us na lang on the gray list, they will not drop us on the blacklist until after we will have complied with our obligations by the end of January next year.”