Press Release
March 30, 2016


Independent vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the ongoing Senate investigation into the alleged $81 million illegal transfer of funds from the Bangladesh Central Bank to a Philippine bank and a remittance firm should protect and benefit the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the billions of dollars they send monthly to the country.

In the current probe by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the Department of Finance (DOF) has said that the country's law on anti-money laundering must be amended and strengthened in the wake of the severing of ties of several foreign banks with money transfer operators servicing OFWs.

"It is imperative and urgent to amend and update Republic Act No. 9160 (AMLA Law) to make it more meaningful and under the service of the interest of OFWs, who are keeping our economy afloat. At the moment, there is no crucial and urgent move but to safeguard the remittances of OFWs," Escudero said.

"We cannot afford to waste time in assisting our OFWS now that an increasing number of foreign banks are making it extra difficult to remit the OFW money to their families here. Several have totally stopped servicing OFWs," added Escudero, the top pick for vice president based on all pre-election surveys.

It will be recalled in the previous hearing of the Senate panel that OFW advocate Susan Ople, who is also running for senator under Partido Galing at Puso, revealed that she has received reports from countries which host Filipino migrants workers that Philippine companies handling remittances had been ordered to close their accounts with foreign banks in the wake of the money-laundering scandal.

As a result, Ople said, OFWs are forced to transact directly with foreign banks at a higher cost but with lesser foreign exchange value, thus reducing the money they send to their families back home.

"Clearly, it is our OFWs who are feeling the brunt. Making it difficult for foreign entities to legally remit OFW money to the Philippines will surely add cost and burden to the OFWs to help their families here. This is an emergency situation," Escudero said.

Escudero said the pivotal changes in AMLA will "send a loud and clear message to the whole world that the hard-earned remittances of our OFWs should not be viewed as a suspect, similar to the illegal or dirty money transferred by criminals using the loopholes in the Philippine financial system's legal mechanism."

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that there were over 2.32 million Filipinos working overseas, as of 2014. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said OFWs pitched in more than $25.767 billion into the Philippine economy last year, or about P1.103 trillion.

"A significant number of OFWs follow all the legal requirements of the countries where they work. They would be the first not to violate laws that will endanger their jobs, their remittances and the future of their families," Escudero added.

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