The Philippine Senate (pictured) and House of Representatives have respectively approved amendments to the country’s Anti- Money Laundering Act, known as the AMLA, adding Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and their “service providers” as “covered persons” under the legislation.
The changes still need the assent of the country’s leader, President Rodrigo Duterte.
A press release on Wednesday from the House of Representatives, indirectly quoted the lower house’s speaker as saying the move would “help the Philippines avoid being included in the grey list of the FATF-International Cooperation Review Group”. That was a reference to the Paris, France-based Financial Action Task Force, a body that advises countries across the world, on how to improve anti-money laundering (AML) procedures.
In March last year, the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council stated POGOs as of at that time, had a “low level of awareness” regarding anti-money laundering, and countering the financing of terrorism.
Wednesday’s press release from the country’s lower legislature, said: “The FATF has given the Philippine government until February 1 to enact and implement the changes to the AMLA, in accordance with its standards against money laundering and terrorist financing. The initial deadline was originally set in October 2020, but was extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The statement added: “The FATF reportedly will decide in June instead of February 2021 whether or not the Philippines will be included in the watchdog’s grey list.”
It noted that “inclusion in FATF’s grey list will result in [an] additional layer of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions, delayed processing of transactions and blocking the country’s road to an ‘A’ credit rating”.
Under proposed amendments to the Anti- Money Laundering Act, a single cash transaction by a POGO or by a service provider for a POGO, in excess of PHP5 million (US$104,028), or “its equivalent in any other currency”, will be defined as a “covered transaction”. That is a rule that already applied to “casinos”, including Internet and ship-based venues, as well as land-based ones.
For all covered by the act, a transaction in cash, or “other equivalent monetary instrument”, involving a total amount “in excess of PHP500,000 within one banking day” is also considered to be a covered transaction.
The country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council has the authority to “require, receive and analyse” as well as investigate, if necessary, relevant transaction reports, according to the statute .