Philippines must pass anti-terrorism bill to stay off "grey list": council

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines risks being included in an international “grey list” of nations falling short of global money-laundering rules if it fails to enact and effectively implement a new anti-terrorism bill, its anti-money laundering body warned on Saturday.

The bill, opposed by human rights activists who fear it could be used to suppress free speech and harass those who challenge the government, is awaiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

Though the country’s compliance with global rules had improved, the Anti-Money Laundering Council said, it must pass and show it could implement tougher measures to combat terrorism before the observation period set by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force expires in February.

Failure to do so, it said, could lead to the Philippines being included in the global watchdog’s grey list, which could hurt the economy, already reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Philippines’ inclusion in the grey list will result in an additional layer of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions,” the council said in a statement, adding it will also put at risk the country’s goal of getting an “A” credit rating.

Duterte, who has drawn international criticism for his war on drugs and his human rights record, had been criticised for prioritising the passage of the anti-terrorism bill over an economic stimulus package to counter the impact of the pandemic.

But the council said, “Fighting terrorism is just as urgent because it also concerns protecting life”.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by William Mallard