China has urged the Philippines to ban all online gambling operations in the country, even as it lauded the decision of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to suspend the issuance of new applications for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
“We have taken note of the Philippine government’s announcement and appreciate it. We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a media briefing in Beijing Tuesday.
The Chinese official expressed hope that the Pagcor’s decision to suspend new applications would pave the way for strengthened law enforcement cooperation with China, which has outlawed online gambling.
China earlier urged the Philippine government to crack down on POGOs, casinos and other forms of gambling entities that were illegally recruiting Chinese citizens.
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila expressed grave concern over a large number of Chinese citizens who had been illegally recruited to work in the Philippine gambling industry with some lured into working with only tourist visas.
Beijing also noted that a huge amount of Chinese funds are also “illegally flown out” of China and into the Philippines through cross-border money laundering.
Beijing said the situation “undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security.”
Earlier, China had also expressed reservations about a plan by Pagcor to move Chinese online gambling workers to self-contained communities or hubs.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, said the government should work to ensure that sufficient actions are taken to address the unintended consequences of the rise of POGOs.
These include rising real estate prices, the displacement Filipino workers brought about by the unlawful entry or stay of illegal foreign workers, the increase in crimes involving foreign nationals, including money laundering, and the heightened threats of espionage that may affect national security.
With the moratorium on new POGOs in place, he said, the government must begin reversing the damage caused by the sector and putting the right regulatory measures in place.
He also advised the government to carefully study the benefits of this industry vis-a-vis the issues that have cropped up from the rise of this industry.
Earlier this month, Villanueva filed a resolution to examine the influx of illegal foreign workers, especially in POGOs, and whether this industry is really beneficial to our country.
He said at the moment, it looked like the Philippines was on the losing end of the POGO industry.
In a related development, the Philippine National Police said it has set up satellite offices of its Anti-Kidnapping Group near gambling hubs in view of the rising number of casino-related abductions.
A spokesman for the group, Lt. Col. Elmer Cereno, said they have already coordinated with casino supervisors and Pagcor.
Cereno said there have been 53 casino-related kidnappings since 2017. A total of 120 Chinese nationals have been arrested.
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