MANILA,  March 5, 2004
 (STAR) By Des Ferriols - Representatives of United States and Canadian financial intelligence units are in the Philippines to evaluate the government’s anti-money laundering program as part of the country’s application for membership in the Egmont Group, a loose organization of FIUs from various countries.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has been meeting with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fincen) and the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center of Canada (Fintrac) to discuss the government’s progress in implementing the anti-money laundering program.

Central Bank governor and AMLC co-chairman Rafael Carlos Buenaventura said Fincen and Fintrac have not given their official endorsement of the Philippines’ application to the Egmont Group, pending the conclusion of their assessment and evaluation.

The Egmont Group is a loose organization of FIUs that facilitates the critical exchange of information on cross-border money-laundering and other criminal financial activities.

Fincen has been actively assisting the AMLC in its efforts to comply with the requirements of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and later agreed to consider sponsoring the Philippines’ membership to the Egmont Group.

Buenaventura said there were no indications yet on whether Fincen or Fintrac was inclined to sponsor the Philippines. The Egmont Group’s application procedure stipulates that an applicant country needs at least one sponsor. Fincen was originally eyed as the primary sponsor but Fintrac later volunteered to also support the Philippines’ application.

"I can’t really say much until the meeting is concluded and all the inputs are in," Buenaventura said.

The Philippine government formally applied for membership in the Egmont Group early this year as it prepared to enter into a bilateral cooperation agreement with AMLC’s counterparts in South Korea and Australia.

The AMLC earlier submitted its reply to a questionnaire from the Egmont Group in the initial stages of the application process.

If Fincen and Fintrac are both satisfied with the implementation of the government’s anti-money laundering program, their sponsorship will bolster the Philippines’ application and help in the government’s protracted effort to be removed from the FATF’s list of non-cooperative countries and territories.

The Asia-Pacific Group for Anti-Money Laundering (APG) has already endorsed the Philippines’ anti-money laundering implementation plan as a model for other Asian countries, but the plan has not been fully evaluated by the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Review Group (APRG).

The APG, which is separate from the FATF’s APRG, has formally requested permission from the government to distribute the Philippine implementation plan that has been hailed as "outstanding and very satisfactory" during the group’s annual meeting in Macau recently.

In a letter to AMLA executive director Vic Aquino, APG project officer David Shannon said it was initially the US delegation’s recommendation that the plan be shared with other APG members that are in a similar situation as the Philippines.

Shannon said the APG has already received a request from the Indonesian financial intelligence unit for a copy of the Philippine plan and the APG wanted to make the document available to other APG members.

"Indonesia is in the process of undertaking operational and implementation planning for the coming 12 months through a series of internal workshops," Shannon told Aquino.

"If acceptable, it is proposed that Indonesia refer to the Philippine implementation plan as a guide in planning their own implementation process," he added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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