THE Congress-approved Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill is set for signing into law on Tuesday (July 18), but the awaited estate tax amnesty extension bill’s signing was deferred by Malacañang.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed this at the weekend, but clarified that the postponement of the estate tax amnesty extension is simply a problem of scheduling, given the President’s busy calendar.
“There’s no problem with the measure itself,” Zubiri told DWIZ in an interview at the weekend, adding that the Palace simply wanted to schedule signing of the two measures on separate dates.
Zubiri noted that “many people” are looking forward to the estate tax amnesty extension, and expressed hope it could still be signed before the State of the Nation Address on July 24, or soon after that, though he conceded that President Marcos has a “busy schedule” next week after the Sona as he is set to join several key events of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Bank secrecy lifting
Meanwhile, Zubiri said the 19th Congress may finally tackle the proposals to lift the bank secrecy in the Philippines when it holds its second regular session, owing to strong pressure, he said, from the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The Senate leader disclosed that
Congress is being repeatedly reminded that “we are the only country in the world” which does not have a law lifting bank secrecy, adding that this makes the Philippines attractive to money launderers.
“So I think we are going to prioritize that measure also [that would allow] government agencies, [when there is a court order], to inquire into bank accounts,” Zubiri said, speaking partly in Filipino. He recalled that “the last country [that lifted bank secrecy] is Lebanon I think, which passed their measure. So we’re the only one.
That’s why it is so hard to transact in the Philippines, because the Anti-Money Laundering Council of other countries have sort of red-flagged us.”
Moreover, he said, “We are becoming a hub for money laundering as reported to us by the Bangko Sentral. So in order to stop that, we need to pass a Bank Secrecy Law.”
The Senate President pointed out that “people who have no need to hide ill-gotten or illegal wealth, should not be scared of such a law.”
In the past, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has pressured the Philippine government into lifting that protection for bank clients, warning that failure to do so would subject Philippine parties—including migrant workers—to more hurdles when making money transfers or similar transactions.
Meanwhile, Zubiri said Congress will also work on an “anti-financial account scamming act” that is targeted to stop widespread fraud using e-wallets. This will be a “complimentary bill to our cybercrime law.”