By CHINO S. LEYCO
The Department of Finance (DOF) said it is ready to work with the Congress to speed up the approval of measures amending the anti-money laundering act (AMLA) and the bank secrecy law.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said yesterday that the passage of the two pending measures are necessary to arm the government with “formidable tools” to effectively fight tax evasion and other financial crimes.
Dominguez recalled the DOF and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) have been jointly pushing for these amendments to strengthen the country’s financial system, noting the current laws are not enough because they are plagued with loopholes.
He said these loopholes have allowed travellers to bring unrestricted amounts of foreign cash into the country, possibly to launder them here, or worse, for use by international criminal syndicates or terrorist networks.
“It is also very likely that the bulk foreign currencies are coming through our financial system through other channels, not only through the ports. They do this because they can. Our laws have no teeth to investigate and prosecute these activities effectively,” Dominguez said.
“We don’t have enough tools to know where all this money is going, without being hamstrung by stringent bank secrecy laws,” said Dominguez during the oathtaking of local treasurers and the awarding of the ISO 9001:2015 certification to the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF).
The oathtaking and awarding ceremonies were held Friday at the Ayuntamiento de Manila building of the Bureau of the Treasuryin Intramuros, Manila.
Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, swore into office 123 local treasurers and assistant treasurers from Metro Manila, the various regions in Luzon, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Before the oathtaking, Dominguez stressed the need for local treasurers to continue building on their competencies, through the Standardized Examination and Assessment for Local Treasury Service (SEAL) Program that is designed to professionalize and modernize the local government treasury service.
“Apart from bridging whatever skills gap there may be, the program also helps insulate the appointment and designation of treasurers of local governments from politicization. This ensures the cultivation of a meritocracy and inhibits the transfer, detail or reassignment of duly appointed local government treasury officials without due cause,” he said.
“Slowly but surely, we are building a strong cadre of treasurers capable of undertaking financial management of local governments. Improved revenue generation for local governments will make devolution a more meaningful process for our communities,” he added.