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Philippine authorities have frozen more than PHP1 billion worth of assets from January 2018 until July 2019, and PHP52 million of these are terrorism funds.

This was disclosed by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela in his welcome remarks during the opening of the three-day 5th Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit in Shangri-La at the Fort Tuesday.

Racela said their partnership with law enforcement agencies have been extended regarding the monitoring of the use of virtual currencies (VC), as the country is currently on advanced stages in VC regulations.

“The AMLC has also received nearly 90,000 suspicious transaction reports, as well as customer due diligence documents from virtual currency exchanges; released an analysis of suspicious transaction reports; and assisted law enforcement agencies in investigation related to virtual currencies,” he added.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., in his speech during the same event, said terrorists have become more sophisticated on how to outdo authorities both for logistical issues and funding.

He said among the challenges that authorities face is how to track monetary flows of terrorist groups since most of these transactions are in cash.

Another issue is the introduction of VCs and crypto currencies thus, law enforcement agencies here have tapped the help of their counterparts overseas.

“And this is where we have to step up our financial intelligence capabilities to determine how illicit funds are raised or generate, moved or transferred, and used,” he said, citing that terrorist supporters are exploiting cyberspace through social networking sites.

“Money is the lifeblood of terrorists and organized crime syndicates. They cannot operate without it. Cutting off their life source is thus, a crucial step to undermine their capabilities and frustrate their ability to carry out terrorist attacks,” he added.

In an interview by journalists after the opening ceremonies, Esperon said it is really hard to check on financial transactions of terrorists and their supporters and financiers because they do not remit in bulk to thwart discovery.

“They don’t remit PHP25 million in one transaction. They do it by PHP50,000… it’s below the radar,” he added.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, otherwise known as Republic Act (RA) 9160, defines covered transaction as “a single, series, or combination of transactions involving a total amount in excess of PHP4,000,000 or an equivalent amount in foreign currency based on the prevailing exchange rate within five consecutive banking days except those between a covered institution and a person who, at the time of the transaction, was a properly identified client and the amount is commensurate with the business or financial capacity of the client; or those with an underlying legal or trade obligation, purpose, origin or economic justification.”

“It likewise refers to a single, series or combination or pattern of unusually large and complex transactions in excess of PHP4,000,000 especially cash deposits and investments having no credible purpose or origin, underlying trade obligation or contract,” it added.

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