Philippines: Central bank tightens rules on money lending
In a move to fight money laundering, the Philippines’ central bank Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) tightened rules on money service businesses (MSBs). MSBs include remittance and transfer companies (RTCs), money changers, and foreign exchange dealers. As per the new rules, large payouts of more than US$10,036 (PHP 500,000) or its foreign currency equivalent in any single transaction with customers will only be allowed via check or direct credit to deposit accounts. Money changers and foreign exchange dealers will be allowed to sell foreign currency in an amount not exceeding US$10,000 and not exceeding US$50,000 per month per customer. Exemption will only be given once an application is made to the BSP depending on the nature of the business.
RTCs and MSBs will also need to notify the BSP when they commence operations as well as for new accreditation of remittance of sub-agents. The new rules will limit MSBs’ ability to transact in cash while also placing a cap on the amount of foreign currency that can be sold to money changers. The development comes after anti-money laundering investigators said that around US$81 million stolen from a Bangladesh central bank was transferred by a Philippines remittance company.
Malaysia raises palm oil export tax
Malaysia, the second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia, will raise crude palm oil (CPO) export tax to 7.5 percent in February, up from seven percent in January. It had earlier raised the CPO export tax to seven percent from the previous six percent in December. The development comes amid rising concern over CPO supplies despite weak global demand. Analysts say that the higher tax may reduce the export quantity by a small amount but planters will enjoy good prices. CPO prices are reviewed every month. Malaysia’s biggest markets include China and India, as well as Korea and Japan.
Indonesia: Government to review visa free policy
Indonesia’s government plans to review its free 30 day visa policy and plans to revoke the benefits from some countries. Government officials stated that they were evaluating the policy based on how much it was helping tourism versus violations by foreigners from certain countries. Over the past few years the visa free program was expanded to several countries. In March, President Joko Widodo signed a decree making the visa free program available to 169 countries. This was done to increase revenue from tourism activities. Nevertheless, the growing concerns over foreigners staying illegally has prompted the government to take action. Officials stated that some countries have not even made use of the visa policy, with no tourists arriving from those countries.
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