Despite China call for ban, Duterte says PH needs online gambling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4)— Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — Despite the Chinese government’s call to ban offshore gambling, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday SAID the country needs online gaming business as a source of livelihood for Filipinos.

“We decide to benefit the interest of my country. Maybe out of courtesy I will listen to you (China). Pero (But) I decide that we need it. Maraming mawawalan ng hanapbuhay (a lot of Filipinos will lose jobs). Anyway it’s government-controlled,” Duterte said in a hastily called media briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

The chief executive, however, warned Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) to follow the remittance process-- or face consequences.

Pag nagkamali kayo, hindi kayo mag-remit, isang non-remittance lang, you better close, tapos mag-usap tayo. Wag yung mag-ooperate kayo... etong gawin ko sa inyo. Pupuntahan kita sa bahay mo at doon tayo mag-usap. Maski sinong gambling lord, wala akong pakialam,” Duterte said.

[Translation: If you make a mistake, you fail to remit, you better close, then we’ll talk. You don’t just operate, this is what I’ll do. I’ll go to your house and we’ll talk. Even if you’re a gambling lord, I don’t care.]

'Di ba sabi ko sa inyo, wag niyong lokohin ang gobyerno? Kaya ko kayo pinagbigyan, kasi ang inaalala ko yung Pilipino at makakain. Wala kasing masyadong trabaho,” the President added.

[Translation: I told you not to fool the government, right? That’s why I gave you a chance, because I was thinking about the Filipinos and what they would eat. Not a lot of jobs in the country.]

Labor Department data show more than 50 POGO hubs employ aroun 84,000 people. Of the number, more than13,880 are Filipinos, and more than 70,100 foreign nationals.

The department said 88.8 percent of foreign workers are Chinese nationals.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Filipino workers will remain as top priority hiring in gaming operations.

“We are talking about of thousands of operators in our country and we are required to see to it that these workers, before they can operate in our country, must obtain alien employment permits and our mandate is to see to it that no Filipino will be deprived of work because of the entry of foreigners,” Bello said during a House budget hearing on Wednesday.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation in August has stopped accepting new license applications for POGOs until all issues have been addressed.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier cautioned that POGOs may shift operations to spying. There have also been concerns about POGOs located near military camps and even the Senate.

China had praised the Philippine government’s decision to suspend POGO applications, and urged the country to go one step further and ban online gambling altogether.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Crissy Dimatulac contributed to this report.