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Foreigners’ influx feared with online gambling ban

The labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Monday feared the influx of foreign workers in the Philippines after Cambodia banned online gambling, displacing thousands of foreign workers, mostly Chinese nationals.

In a statement, TUCP president Raymond Mendoza is proposing the creation of a coordinating body in managing and controlling the growth of offshore online gambling industry as it sees the influx of more Chinese workers into the country following the recent ban of gaming operations in Cambodia. 

The Cambodian government last month banned the issuance of new online licenses and ordered a crackdown on thousands of Chinese workers employed in the operations in the towns of Sihanoukville, Bavet and Poipet. 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wanted online gambling operations terminated by the end of the year.

Around 6,000 Chinese nationals are leaving Cambodia since the ban directive was issued middle of last month, reports said.

For his part, Senator Joel Villanueva said they expected nothing less than the immediate shut down of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations. 

“We do not owe anything to these errant POGOs who have the gall to refuse the correct payment of taxes of their workers,” he said. 

The senator,  chairman of the Senate labor committee, stressed it was high time the government acted with dispatch to make these firms comply with the country’s laws. 

“We call on the interior department to support the Department of Finance by asking all local government units to revoke business permits of POGOs who do not comply with our tax laws,” he said.

He said the Interior department should also lend a hand to the Bureau of Internal Revenue by asking the police to fan out and shutter these firms, the way it closed down operations of the PCSO last month.

According to Villanueva, the sudden rise of the POGO industry and the problems that went with it like the so-called “real estate bubble” and the increase in crimes involving foreigners, was no joke. 

The POGO industry has overtaken the information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) sector in terms of demand for office space as of September, data released by real estate services firm Leechiu Property Consultants on Monday showed.

There is demand for more than 1 million square meters of office space so far this year, LPC chief executive officer David Leechiu said in a press conference in Makati City.

POGOs account for 34 percent of the demand equivalent to 386,000 sqm, while 31 percent or 355,000 square meters came from the IT-BPM and 35 percent or 398,000 sqm from other sectors.

The TUCP said the country remained attractive to Chinese online operators and workers though the Philippine government suspended issuing new licenses to prospective Philippine Online Gaming Offshore operators.

“While we are assessing the POGO overall social implications and weigh the comprehensive benefits of this online gambling industry in our economy by putting on hold issuance of new operating licenses, the TUCP would like to propose the creation of a POGO coordinating body that has supervision and control of the industry for the benefit of the country,”  Mendoza said.

He said there were various government agencies that exercises authority over different aspects of the entire POGO industry namely the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the Department of Trade and Industry, Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Immigration, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Philippine National Police.

However, despite the affluence the POGO industry is bringing to the office and residential business, additional government revenue, construction, transport, retail and food, local employment, growing incidents such as kidnapping, homicide, misconduct, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, illegal online gambling operations, prostitution and use and trafficking of illegal drugs are also on the rise, Mendoza said. 

“Government agencies have limited authority and they cease to function on area that is beyond their mandate. The dis-coordination between and among these agencies might cause government to entirely lose control of the industry. We have to learn from the Cambodian experience specifically in the aspect of government control over the entire aspects of the growing industry that has the potential to our economy,” Mendoza said.

The proposed coordinating body is composed of different concerned government agencies along representatives from labor and business sectors attached to the Office of the President. 

Aside from coordinating government common response to the industry, the body shall also develop policies and programs in improving enforcement and compliance to labor and gambling operations, he said.

 Mendoza said the labor organization was conducting study and assessment of the overall impact and trends in POGO industry particularly its economic and social implications in the community including the employment, living and working conditions of Chinese POGO workers in the country.

Topics: Trade Union Congress of the Philippines , foreign workers , online gambling , Raymond Mendoza
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