In a Thursday raid, the Philippines arrested 342 Chinese nationals working illegally in the Philippines’ increasingly divisive offshore gambling industry.
Hundreds of Illegal POGO Workers Arrested
On Friday, December 20, the Philippines said that they had detained hundreds of illegal Chinese workers who were hired to work in the country’s offshore gaming operators. The arrests were conducted as part of the Philippines efforts to clamp down on POGOs that are failing to comply with social responsibility, employee protection policies and tax laws.
President Rodrigo Duterte has warned POGOs to begin complying with the Philippines’ laws or face prosecution, including physical violence.
POGOs have been making headlines for a few months now, after lawmakers have raised concerns that the industry is increasingly failing to pay tax and participates in various tax evasion schemes. Yet, Andrea Domingo from the country’s gambling regulator, has expressed a firm believe that POGOs are ‘here to stay.’
Not least of all, China recently stepped in to demand from the Philippines to shut down the industry because POGOs employed Chinese workers without permits, nor did the operators provide Chinese nationals with fair working conditions.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, President Duterte also suggested that China could use POGOs to spy on the Philippines:
Tens of Thousands of Illegal Immigrants from China
Reportedly, POGOs have been bringing in tens of thousands of unregistered immigrants for the purposes of cheap labour. In Thursday’s raid, 342 Chinese nationals were arrested. The head of the operation, intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan, said that the raids were carried out after an investigation indicating the presence of illegal immigrants.
Manahan said that the move had been coordinated with the Chinese government, indicating that the Philippines still treads carefully in cases where Chinese national s are involved. The Philippines has also proved a good employment destination for many mainlanders.
Even though President Duterte rules with high-handedness at home and claims to have executed people himself, he has been on good terms with China. However, locals have began to remonstrate against the influx of Chinese tourist, gamblers and staff members.
According to residents close to offshore gaming regions, the gambling boom in POGOs has led to the gentrification of those areas, driving property rates up. Gambling hasn’t been the only viable concern of the government, however.
Raids Target Prostitution and Cyber Criminals
In September, separate raids were carried out and led to the arrests of 324 cyber criminals of Chinese nationality along with 277 Chinese nationals suspected of running and being involved in prostitution rings.
China has also been trying to limit the spreading of online gambling in the region, making demands to both Cambodia and the Philippines to suspend such operations. Many have seen in this an attempt to bolster the gaming hub in Macau operated under Chinese law.
While President Duterte has not given in to such demands, he has made it very clear to POGOs to either start paying their tax obligations or executives of such venues would be dragged to the President, beaten and shot with an airgun.
While the gung-ho language of President Duterte often frightens, there have been those to ask for more reasonable approaches. PAGCOR President Alfredo C Lim has appealed to lawmakers not to overregulated the industry and stifle an important revenue stream for the Philippines.
PAGCOR is the organization that regulates the casino market in the Philippines.