Lawmaker: Keep POGOs away from military camps

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PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles questions why Philippine offshore gaming operators, which largely employ Chinese workers, are located near military headquarters. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) — A lawmaker said Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) should not operate near military camps.

“We should stay away from sensitive areas like the Armed Forces of the Philippines and our security risk areas,” PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Monday.

Nograles has questioned why some POGO operations, where many Chinese nationals work in the country, are situated near military headquarters.

He said the country should be “more sensitive” in allowing POGOs near these facilities as it raises security concerns.

POGO operations are situated near the Senate, and the headquarters of the Armed Forces, the Navy and the Philippine National Police, according to maps shared by Nograles.

The lawmaker said the House National Defense, Games and Amusements, and Trade panels should look into POGO operations.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon had earlier expressed concern about the influx of Chinese workers in the country, saying that this could pose as a national security threat.

More than three million Chinese nationals have entered the country since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016 and warmed up to Beijing. However, government data shows that thousands may have been working in the country illegally or without proper documentation, especially in the POGO industry.

Nograles’ comments come on the heels of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporations’ proposal to create “self-contained” POGO hubs to minimize Chinese workers’ interactions with Filipinos.

China has criticized the proposal, saying it may infringe on the rights of Chinese citizens working in the country, but it encouraged the Philippines to crack down on the illegal employment of Chinese nationals in Philippine gambling sites.

But Nograles warned that completely stopping POGO operations in Metro Manila could crash the housing market.

“That is going to be a drastic change in the valuation of real estate and that would definitely hit our stock market,” he said.

POGOs are seen to dominate office spaces in the country by year-end, according to Leechiu Property Consultants. The influx of POGOs in Metro Manila have also sent condominium rates skyrocketing by as much as 80 percent in Bay City in Pasay in the last three years.

POGOs run casinos and similar betting games through the Internet. However, these companies are currently in hot water for reportedly hiring foreigners, mostly Chinese, for their operations without paying correct taxes.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue said it has collected ₱186 million in withholding taxes from POGOs since June, and is set to get ₱170 million more this month.