Each year, nearly five million international tourists visit the Philippine—an archipelagic nation of more than 7,000 islands in the western Pacific Ocean—to enjoy its white-sand beaches, natural beauty, and rich biodiversity.
Although tourists contribute significantly to the Philippine economy, most don’t travel with large sums of cash and instead rely on ATM withdrawals, credit cards, and cash to finance their trips. Still, there may be a time when you're traveling that you might need to visit the nation with a lot of cash, perhaps more than $10,000 in foreign currency.
In compliance with national and international anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism-financing agreements, the Central Bank of the Philippines regulates the amount of money that travelers can bring into or out of the Philippines. You can carry up to $10,000, or its equivalent in any foreign currency, in cash or other monetary instruments.
According to the Embassy of the Philippines, monetary instruments include “traveler’s checks, other checks, drafts, notes, money orders, bonds, deposit certificates, securities, commercial papers, trust certificates, custodial receipts, deposit substitute instruments, trading orders, transaction ticks, and confirmation of sale/investment.”
It’s important to note that it’s not against the law to carry more than $10,000; you just have to declare it on arrival at the Bureau of Customs Desk at the airport, using the Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form. The form includes questions about your identity and travel plans, as well as who owns the money, who will receive the money, the source of the money and the reasons for carrying that much cash into the country.
If you have more than $10,000 and you don’t declare it, you could be in trouble. Penalties range from fines to having your cash seized and/or ending up in jail.
Note that the same rules apply if you are leaving the Philippines with more than $10,000. You still have to submit a Declaration Form to the Bureau of Customs that states the amount of foreign currency above $10,000 and the source of the money.
Putting the money into Philippine pesos won't help: The law also states that "the taking in and bringing out of the Philippines of Philippine currency in excess of PHP10,000 is strictly prohibited" unless authorized by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, according to a Philippine Consulate website.
An International Problem
Per international anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism-financing acts, you have to declare if you are traveling with more than $10,000 in cash, no matter where you travel. “Money laundering and the financing of terrorism are financial crimes with economic effects,” says Min Zhu, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Effective anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are essential to protect the integrity of markets and of the global financial framework as they help mitigate the factors that facilitate financial abuse.”
In addition to international regulations, under the Philippines’s Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, all money transactions exceeding 400,000 Philippine pesos ($8,528 as of November 5, 2015) must be reported to the Anti-Money Laundering Council – even if done through a bank.
Though it’s perfectly legal to travel into the Philippines with more than $10,000, you’ll have to declare it as soon as you arrive in the country. Failure to do so could result in fines, the seizure of your cash or even jail time, depending on the circumstances.
Unless you have a good reason to carry that much money, you might be better off traveling with less and accessing more once you’re in the Philippines. Many international banks operate in the Philippines, so a good approach is to leave your money in your bank and make ATM withdrawals as needed.