DOF renews call to amend laws on bank secrecy, anti-money laundering
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said both the DOF and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) are pushing for these amendments to improve the government’s capability to prevent tax evasion and money laundering.
STAR/ File
DOF renews call to amend laws on bank secrecy, anti-money laundering
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) has renewed its call for the swift passage of proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) and the Bank Secrecy Law amid the influx of foreign currencies entering through the country’s airports.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said both the DOF and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) are pushing for these amendments to improve the government’s capability to prevent tax evasion and money laundering.

“The Department of Finance, together with the Bangko Sentral, has been jointly pushing for the amendments of our Anti-Money Laundering and Bank Secrecy Laws. These formidable tools will strengthen our ability to fight tax evasion and other financial crimes,” Dominguez said during the oathtaking of local treasurers and the awarding of the ISO 9001:2015 certification to the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF).

The finance chief said the current version of the laws are plagued with loopholes that allow travelers to bring in huge amounts of foreign cash into the country, possibly as part of their money laundering schemes, or as funds for international criminal syndicates or terrorist networks.

He said it is also likely that a large amount of huge currencies are coming into the local financial system through other channels, and not only through ports.

“Our laws have no teeth to investigate and prosecute these activities effectively. We don’t have enough tools to know where all this money is going, without being hamstrung by a stringent Bank Secrecy Law,” Dominguez said.

The secretary also noted that AMLA remains a weak tool against money laundering.

“Tax evasion and other financial wrongdoings are not among the predicate crimes listed under the law that would allow the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC, to examine bank accounts after securing a court order. This leaves us powerless in going after tax evaders and other criminals using funds for other illegal activities,” Dominguez said.

Considering these issues, Dominguez said the DOF and the BSP are ready to work with the legislature to push again for the congressional approval of these measures.

He said while these measures remain pending, the DOF, AMLC and other government agencies are utilizing available tools to curb tax evasion and other questionable activities, such as the unrestricted influx of foreign currency into the country.

 “An investigation is underway to determine the sources and destinations of these foreign banknotes flagrantly stashed in suitcases and brought into the country,” the finance chief said.

AMLA BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS DOF
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