MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has stepped up its fight against money laundering, but an international task force raises concern over local casinos possibly being used to launder funds.
This comes after the country avoided being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in connection with money laundering.
FATF said the country's casino sector remains "unregulated for AML (anti-money laundering) and CFT (combating the financing of terrorism) purposes and is still not subject to AML/CFT requirements."
It urges the Philippines to "promptly and effectively address this outstanding deficiency."
The country remains in the task force's "gray" list after avoiding inclusion in a "blacklist" of money laundering havens as FATF recognized the government's "high level" commitment to address the issue.
The Philippines signed into law changes to the Anti Money Laundering Act (AMLA) on February 15.
It expanded the list of predicate crimes or unlawful activities that could be used for money laundering, and the list of institutions that the law covers.
Congress ratified the measure on February 6, beating the deadline set by the FATF.
The Paris-based task force will soon visit the country to see first hand the reforms made to address the deficiencies.
Aquino previously signed into law the two other proposed amendments to the AMLA – Senate Bill 3009 and Senate Bill 3127.
The former allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into bank accounts of suspected money launderers without notifying them, while the latter, also named the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, criminalizes terrorist financing as an offense separate from the crime of terrorism.
FATF had previously placed the Philippines on its "dark gray" list of jurisdictions deemed not to be making sufficient progress in fighting money-laundering, and threatened to put it in the blacklist early 2012.
The task force called for greater state powers to make it easier to scrutinize bank accounts, as well as casinos, foreign exchange traders and other non-bank entities. - With reports from KD Suarez/Rappler.com and Agence France-Presse