DOF looking into $188 million cash brought in by Chinese nationals
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has instructed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to inform the AMLC on the volume of currency brought into the country.
STAR/ File
DOF looking into $188 million cash brought in by Chinese nationals
Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - February 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) is working closely with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in looking into about $188 million in cash brought into the country by Chinese nationals between December and February.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has instructed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to inform the AMLC on the volume of currency brought into the country.

“The BOC informed me of the volume of foreign currency brought in by travelers who declared the amounts upon arrival. I instructed them to inform the AMLC about this,” Dominguez said before the weekend, adding that he was familiar with the issue raised by Sen. Richard Gordon who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

Citing records from the BOC, Gordon said Chinese nationals brought in as much as $5 million in cash each from Dec. 17 up to Feb. 12, but the amounts were declared.

The foreigners said the amounts would be used for investments, travel and casino.

In 2006, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued Circular No. 507 requiring residents or non-residents carrying more than $10,000 (or its equivalent in other foreign currencies) into or out of the country to disclose the amount.

The BSP also required these individuals to inform the BOC about the source and purpose of the funds, along with their personal information.

On the other hand, Republic Act 7653 or the New Central Bank Act mandates a fine of between P50,000 and P200,000 or an imprisonment of two to 10 years for travelers who fail to declare the money they were carrying above the $10,000 threshold.

AMLC secretariat executive director Mel Georgie Racela earlier said Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and service providers are covered by RA 9260 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act to make sure the country is not used as a conduit for the laundering of dirty money.

‘Crimes linked  to POGOs’

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the labor and employment committee that investigated the proliferation of Chinese-dominated POGOs, said the exposé of Gordon on the apparent money laundering scheme reinforces initial findings of criminality accompanying POGOs.

“Gambling, in any form or kind, attracts criminal activities as we have seen in the previous months and years. Women are trafficked into prostitution dens, loan sharks are preying on players and resorting to kidnapping to force payments and workers are placed under a system with questionable labor practices that run contrary to the laws and regulations of our land,” Villanueva said.

“It is clear that the supposed economic benefit (of POGOs) to our country is negligible at best. It does not create jobs for Filipinos. For us, the evidence on the negative effects brought about by POGOs are glaring. It is happening right before our eyes, and we can no longer turn our heads the other way. We should stop the operations of POGOs now,” Villanueva said.

Sen. Christopher Go said the Duterte administration is finding ways to raise the salaries of immigration personnel, who previously sought a pay increase.

133,000 Chinese workers

Amid controversies involving Chinese nationals working in POGO companies, records from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) show that the country has served as a second home to almost 133,000 Chinese workers in the past five years.   

In a four-page document obtained by The STAR on the number of pre-arranged employee visas issued to foreigners per country, the report showed that the BI has granted working visas to 132,911 Chinese citizens from 2015 to 2019. 

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval, however, said the figures on the issued working visas to Chinese nationals do not show the total number of Chinese workers in the country, as it reflected only the data from the bureau.  – With Paolo Romero, Robertzon Ramirez, Romina Cabrera

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