By Melo Acuña
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has expressed grave concern over a statement attributed to a Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) official that Chinese workers in Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs would be moved to “self-contained” communities or hubs.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the embassy said POGOs that primarily target Chinese clients were in fact illegal under Chinese law and could be linked to criminal activities, and that Beijing would conduct an investigation as well as crack down on funding channels.
The embassy warned that the proposed hubs might “infringe on the basic legal rights” of Chinese citizens, as it strongly urged the Philippine government to “effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines.”
At the same time, it said the Chinese government had always required its citizens to abide by local laws and regulations and “not to work illegally” overseas.
‘Contrary to law’
The statement pointed out that under Chinese laws and regulations, any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online gambling, gambling overseas, and opening casinos overseas to attract Chinese customers, is contrary to law.
“The casinos and offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and other forms of gambling entities in the Philippines target Chinese citizens as their primary customers. A large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired in the Philippine gaming industry,” the statement said.
It noted that employers of Philippine casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities did not require Chinese employees to submit work permits, and that some Chinese citizens were even “lured and cheated to work illegally with only tourist visas.”
Casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities that target Chinese customers have “severely affected the Chinese side” because of the huge amount of Chinese funds illegally siphoned out of China and into the Philippines involve crimes like cross-border money laundering through underground banking, “which undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security.”
“A conservative estimate shows that gambling-related funds illegally flowing out of China and into the Philippines amounts to hundreds of millions of Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) every year,” the statement said.
It said China would “crack down on ‘underground banks’ and online payment platforms that provide financial settlement for cross-border gambling and other crimes, and wipe out domestic network operators and companies that provide technical support for such crimes.”
The embassy said Chinese citizens working illegally in Philippine casinos or POGOs are subjected to “modern slavery” as their personal freedom is severely limited, the embassy claimed.
Chinese workers’ passports are confiscated by Philippine employers, and they live and work in designated places, with some subjected to “extortion, physical abuse and torture as well as other ill-treatment.”
The embassy claimed there have been “dozens of kidnappings and torture cases of Chinese citizens” who gamble and work illegally in gambling entities in the Philippines.
Hiding the problem
Also on Thursday, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Pagcor’s plan to transfer POGOs to self-contained communities or hubs was “totally missing the point.”
“What we want is for POGO operators and their employees to pay the correct taxes and not devour local jobs that are exclusively for our countrymen,” he said in a statement.
“The government may be losing an estimated P32 billion in uncollected income taxes a year from some 138,000 foreign workers in POGOs, according to the Department of Finance. Isolating these firms and workers into hubs will not bring additional revenue for the government, nor will it solve the issue of foreigners encroaching on jobs meant for Filipino citizens,” he added.
“Imbes na ayusin ang problema ay tinatago lang nila ito (Instead of fixing the problem they are hiding it),” Gatchalian said. (PressONE.ph)
(Thumbnail photo grabbed from PTV)