The many Chinese nationals living in condominiums and working in Philippine offshore gaming operations, or Pogos, are creating a stir in Congress and among Filipinos.
They are inconspicuous in malls, restaurants and other public places. Their employers have jacked up the prices of real estate properties and condominium buildings by buying whole floors, instead of individual units, presumably for sub-lease to hired Chinese workers.
Lawmakers last year estimated that around 200,000 Chinese were working in the Philippines, right after China banned online gambling and cracked down on illegal casinos in the mainland.
Their presence, however, has not escaped the attention of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who vowed to collect an estimated P3 billion worth of income tax each month from foreign nationals working in Pogos. All foreigners should be taxed, not just Chinese, says Dominguez, adding that the government was not focusing on particular nationalities working in Pogos.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier declared that all foreign and Philippine-based gaming operators, including those with offshore licenses, were required to register with the BIR as a prerequisite in the renewal of their Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. license.
The BIR has listed 54 Pogo licensees, comprising of 10 local companies and 44 offshore operators. But only seven local operators and eight offshore licensees were registered with the BIR. The Justice Department, meanwhile, reported that less than 95,000 foreign nationals obtained various forms of temporary work permits as Pogo employees from the Bureau of Immigration as of June 2018.
The sheer number of Chinese Pogo workers in the Philippines, while boosting the revenues of the property sector, malls and the fast-food business, will inevitably shape and mix with the local culture.
The phenomenon has also drawn a warning from visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who noted that the influx of Chinese workers could "disturb the political equations."
"If huge numbers of any foreigners [come] to live and stay in the country or to even influence the economy of a country, then you have to do some rethinking as to whether it is good or bad, or the limits that you have to impose on them," says the Malaysian leader in a television interview.
Foreign workers are welcomed in the Philippines as long as they do not take away jobs from locals. They should also be reminded that they are still guests here and must respect the local laws, irrespective of the amount of investments placed by their employers.