House panel to look into entry of $1.02-B in cold cash
China is smuggling millions of dollars into the country, through Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), to finance its intelligence gathering operations, according to Senator Richard Gordon.
Alarmed by the information, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means will hold an executive session on Tuesday to discuss the national security implications of the entry of a whopping USD1.02 billion in cold, hard cash into the country.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, committee chair, said the executive meeting will be held together with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Bureau of Customs, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and Board of Investments to discuss how this huge amount of foreign currency was funneled into the country in cold cash.
On Sunday, Gordon disclosed that the cash was brought into the country from December to February.
Alleged members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from China may be using the Pogos for intelligence gathering in the country, Gordon said.
Gordon noted that China is beefing up its intelligence network in the country so that it will “be ready whatever happens.”
“They are riding on Pogos” to bring in money to finance its intelligence activities, said Gordon.
The senator disclosed in an interview with Inquirer editors and reporters on Thursday that more than $160 million (about P8 billion) was brought by a handful of Chinese citizens, who arrived in the country from Dec. 17, 2019, to Feb. 12.
“The reported USD160 million is just the tip of the iceberg. Based on the reports that we’ve received, there is also around USD840 million that slipped past through Customs through the airports last year, on top of the USD160 million,” Salceda said. “The USD1.02 billion (which entered the country last year is enough to shift political fortunes, distort the competitive dynamics of certain industries with its regulatory oversight. The committee on ways and means is completely alarmed, in fact aghast.”
He noted that the cold cash is not subject to confiscation by the Philippine Bureau of Customs because it was declared.
A person may carry up to the amount of USD10,000 (or its equivalent in any other foreign currency), in cash or other monetary instruments, into and out of the Philippines.
If a person wishes to bring more than the equivalent of USD10,000, a written declaration must be made.
“But the implication of this matter on our national security is frightening, particularly the source of this money, as well as where will all this money go,” Salceda said. “According to the Customs, this is a portable commodity and therefore, this should be under their mandate. We are worried because of the overly complacent or relaxed attitude of the Customs.”
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero has earlier been quoted as saying that there are several attempts by individuals and groups to sneak in large amounts of US dollars and other foreign currency into the country using travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. (with PNA report)