Sep 192014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-11-24 08:17
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 005483


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2015

REF: TREASURY 1346 (11/01/05)

Classified By: ECONCOUNSELOR ROBERT LUDAN. REASONS 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (SBU) Embassy appreciates efforts to coordinate and
address the issue of cash couriers as a critical element in
thwarting money laundering and potential terrorist financing.
We agree with the strategic picture presented in reftel and
concur that it contains the major elements of a draft
strategy. While bulk cash smuggling in the Philippines is
rampant, the authorities are taking steps to combat it, and
actively seek USG technical assistance in human and
institutional capacity-building and training to identify,
investigate, and curtail abuses.

¶2. (U) Although there is no limit on the amount of foreign
currency an individual or entity can bring into or take out
of the country, any amount in excess of $10,000 equivalent
must be declared upon arrival or departure. The Philippines
limits the amount of domestic currency that can be brought
into or taken out of the country at 10,000 pesos (about
$200). Amounts over that need the approval of the Central
Bank, which is difficult to obtain.

¶3. (SBU) The requirement to declare foreign currency upon
arrival and departure and the restriction on bringing in or
taking out pesos is well-publicized at Manila’s international
airport (NAIA). There are signs posted throughout the
terminal reminding travelers that they must declare foreign
currency above $10,000 and cannot transport more than 10,000
pesos. The airport recently revised the immigration cards
that inbound and outbound travelers must complete and sign to
clarify the rules governing currency declaration. The
airport has also posted large public notices on currency
border controls as part of a recent government initiative in
coordination with the U.S. Embassy.

¶4. (C) The signs at NAIA in Manila could be more
prominently displayed. Other international gateways to the
Philippines, including the airports in Cebu, Mindanao, and
northern Luzon, do not have signs publicizing currency
restrictions for arriving and departing passengers. Customs
officials in these cities have not focused on the problem of
cash smuggling. As a result, charter flights coming into and
out of these destinations may be shielding a significant
number of cash couriers.

¶5. (C) There is systematic abuse of the currency
declaration requirements, and the volume of unreported cash
coming into the Philippines is extraordinary. The total
amount of funds declared by the only three foreign banks
repatriating cash to their regional or home headquarters is
over 100 times the value of U.S. dollars declared by incoming
passengers and institutions. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is
aware that currency smuggling is a problem and is actively
pursuing USG support to combat it. The BOC has a
well-deserved reputation for corruption, however, and may be
colluding with some of these cash smugglers. BOC officials
have undergone some training already to help them learn to
identify cash couriers but would appreciate additional
capacity building in the areas of bulk cash identification
and outbound passenger search techniques.

¶6. (SBU) The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the
country’s financial intelligence unit with investigative and
prosecutorial authority for money laundering, is well aware
of FATF Special Recommendation IX. USG officials stationed
in Manila and visiting the country engage AMLC on a regular
basis. AMLC is actively coordinating with the Philippine
National Police (PNP), the BOC, the Bureau of Immigration,
the airport authorities, and other GRP agencies to share
intelligence about cash smuggling. Embassy expects the
signing of a draft MOU between AMLC and the BOC soon covering
information exchange and operational cooperation. The USG
has a number of programs of technical support and training
assistance with AMLC, as well as with the aviation security
unit of the PNP, the Manila International Airport Authority,
and the Bureau of Customs. The GRP is looking forward to a
special training program that will be conducted with the help
of DHS/ICE on bulk cash smuggling early next spring.



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