A staggering amount of US$447 million or P22.69 billion, that passed through the Bureau of Customs (BOC), was laundered into the country by 47 persons including Filipinos from September 2019 up to February 2020.
In a privilege speech delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, Senator Richard Gordon revealed that 46.98 percent of the amount or US$210 million or P10.6 billion were laundered into the country by Chinese nationals, mostly by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) workers.
Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, is set to conduct a Senate probe on the money-laundering crimes and other nefarious activities committed by POGO workers in the Philippines.
Money laundering, Gordon said, is often associated with gambling.
Gordon said it appears that authorities turned a blind eye to the nefarious activities that come with the presence of POGO in the country in exchange for a few billions in tax revenues or perhaps because of “pastillas” or any other form it may take.
Gordon also said the influx of inordinatte and suspiciously large amounts of foreign currencies over a short period of time failed to alarm the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
“The inordinate and suspiciously large amount of foreign currencies entering the countey in a period of less than two months without being flagged is an apparent scheme of money laundering being tolerated by authorities,” said Gordon.
The purposes of the huge money as declared by said individuals are for foreign exchange, 49.77 percent; investments, 16.23 percent; travel and casino, 15.1 percent; casino, 8.2 percent; business, 2.77 percent; travel, 1.81 percent and not specified, 6.14 percent.
The top 5 individuals who brought the huge amount of money in the country are the following: ESRodriquez- US$34.6 million or P1.7 billion (45 transactions), JGRodriquez- US$32.6 million or P1.6 billion (40 transactions), Mr. Chun-US$26.6 million or 1.3 billion (8 transactions), Mr. Sheng, US$24 million or P1.2 billion (7 transactiona) and Mr. Kim – P21.6 million or P1 billion (7 transactions).
To show a clearer picture of the huge amount of money brought in by these foreign nationals, who were reportedly escorted by some unscrupolous government personnel and officials particularly from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Gordon said the US$500 million can be used to pay the Philippines’ external debt amounting to P82.67 billion as of September 2019 to Australia, Canada, British Virgin Islands and Luxemborg.
He said the huge amount can also be used to bankroll the government’s flagship projects like the Kaliwa Dam, New Cebu International Container Port, Pangiil Bay Project and Chico River Pump Irrigation project.
The P22.69 billion, Gordon said can be used to buy condominium units in Bonifacio Global City, and the cities of Pasay, Makati and Paranaque.
He said it can also be used to buy 8,400 units of high-end Toyota Hi-Ace Grandia 2020 model, 5,600 units of high-end Toyota Alpha 2020 model and more or less 6,285 units of Toyota Coaster.
These cars were being used as service vehicles of the almost 500 Chinese POGO workers in the country.
Leechiu Property Consultnts estimated that there are around 470,000 POGO workers, much higher than the govenment estimate of around 150,000.
With the presence of POGO workers renting residential properties in the country, Gordon cited a spike in its value.
Gordon said the Flitch rating noted that prices of residential properties rose 10 percent a year in the quarter of 2019, making it one of the strongest growth points in any major real estate market since 2010.
Condominium prices in Metro Manila climbed by an unsustainable 34 percent year on year.
Flitch also pointed out that the property price hikes pose rising risks to banks./Stacy Ang