OFW spies in China? ‘Preposterous,’ says Defense Chief Lorenzana

Marje Pelayo   •   August 20, 2019   •   362

Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana slammed Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua for saying that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China are into spying activities in their country.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Chinese envoy reacted to Lorenzana when the latter expressed concern that Chinese workers in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) hubs in the country might be potential spies for China.

According to Lorenzana, such claim by the Chinese envoy is “preposterous” emphasizing that “POGO workers here are not comparable to OFWs in China.”

“POGO workers usually come over to the Philippines for a different purpose, e.g., likely just tourism, but eventually, [they] got visas to work in an activity at the POGO centers operating gambling operations which are prohibited in China,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

Lorenzana made certain that there were no POGO-like centers near military camps in China which could possibly be managed by Filipinos.

He stressed that as far as information gathering is concerned, it is the Chinese nationals who might be used for that matter.

“What I am alarmed is the potential that they could be tapped for information gathering purposes,” the Defense Chief said.

 “That is why I support the relocation of the POGO centers to ecozones that are not proximate to military camps,” he concluded. – MNP (with details from April Cenedoza)

DILG, LGUs urged to revoke business permits of POGOs evading tax fees

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGU) to support the Finance department’s move to shut down Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) that are not complying with the country’s tax laws.

In a statement, Villanueva said the DILG should help in this measure by ordering LGUs to revoke business permits of POGOs that are evading their tax liabilities.

The DOF over the weekend ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to close down and file charges against POGOS including their service providers that fail or refuse to settle the tax liabilities of their foreign workers.

READ: PH gov’t to close down tax-evading POGOs

The order was issued following reports of slow collection of withholding income taxes from select POGOs with tax liabilities amounting to P21.62 billion despite the issuance of 130 letter-notices to these firms.

“We do not owe anything to these errant POGOs who have the gall to refuse the correct payment of taxes of their workers. We expect nothing less than the immediate shut down of these firms,” Villanueva said.

“It is high time that our government acts with dispatch to make these firms comply with our 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 added.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier assured support for the Finance department’s move to close down errant POGOs.

“We follow the law. BIR has the legal authority to close down establishments who evade taxes. Pagcor supports this move. We are issuing a letter to all POGO operators and service providers to this effect,” Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo said in a statement.

Villanueva also urged the DILG to assist the BIR in implementing the order by asking the police to shutter tax-evading online gaming operators the way it closed down operations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) last month.

It can be recalled that police closed down PCSO outlets in July after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the immediate suspension of all its gaming operations over the supposed corruption in the agency.

The president later lifted the suspension on lotto and small-town lottery operations but with certain conditions.

Villanueva also pointed out that POGOs only provide “minimal benefits” to the country compared to its effects to Filipino locals and businesses, including the increase of rental rates for residential or office spaces near POGO hubs.

“Hindi biro ang pagsulpot ng sektor na ito at ang mga kaakibat na problemang dala dala nito tulad ng paglikha ng tinatawag na real estate bubble at pagtaas ng krimen sangkot ang mga dayuhan,” Villanueva said.

“Sa ating pananaw, hindi po sapat ang kanilang binabayaran na buwis para payagan itong mamayagpag,” he added.

He also raised concern over the spiking number of crimes involving foreign nationals, citing a recent raid in Pasig City where 277 Chinese nationals were apprehended.

READ: BI arrests close to 300 Chinese nationals in Pasig City

“Dumadayo na rin po sa ating bayan ang mga kriminal na tumatakas sa kanilang pananagutan sa batas ng China, tulad na lamang ng nakaraang raid sa isang opisina sa Pasig noong nakalipas na lingo,” he said.

“Maging ang gobyerno ng China po ay hinihiling na ipagbawal na ang pagpapatakbo ng mga POGO mula sa ating pamahalaan. Maliit lang po ang benepisyo natin sa sektor na ito, at mas malaki pa ang dulot na abala sa atin nito,” he added.

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate committee on labor, said a public inquiry into POGOs will be conducted where they will discuss all the facts and effects it has brought to the country.

Senator urges Duterte gov’t to revoke POGO licenses

Robie de Guzman   •   August 28, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan has urged the Duterte administration to revoke the licenses granted to the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs in the country.

Pangilinan made the call as President Rodrigo Duterte leaves for a three-day working visit to China from August 28 to September 1.

The lawmaker said the government should heed Beijing’s earlier call to Manila to ban all online gambling operations following the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (Pagcor) move to suspend the issuance of new licenses for offshore gaming companies over several concerns.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila had said that based on China’s laws and organization, any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal. 

READ: China calls on Philippines to ban all online gambling operations

“Tama naman ang China rito. Kanselahin na ang lisensya ng mga POGO on concerns of criminality and corruption. Iligal ito sa China. Ibig sabihin, mga Chinese criminal ang nagpapatakbo ng mga POGO dito sa Pilipinas,” Pangilinan said.

(China is correct here. Cancel the POGO licenses on concerns of criminality and corruption. Gambling is illegal in China. This means that Chinese criminals run the POGOs here in the Philippines.)

“It is the Philippine government that is condoning the operations of criminal syndicates. Nakakaduda tuloy kung totoo nga ba anti-crime and anti-corruption campaign ng administrasyong ito dahil pinapayagan ang mga Chinese criminal na malayang magsagawa ng mga iligal na negosyo dito sa atin,” he added.

(The sincerity of the anti-crime and anti-corruption campaign of this administration is placed in serious doubt with Chinese criminal syndicates being allowed to conduct illegal businesses freely in our midst.)

Pangilinan also noted that the last few months saw an increase in crime reports involving POGO players and financiers who break the law but do not allow themselves to be subjected to Philippine laws.

“Meron pa ngang mga ulat ng pansamantalang pagpapakulong sa ating mga pulis at hindi pinapayagang imbestigahan ang mga pinangyarihan ng krimen. Ito ay ng pambabastos na hindi natin dapat pinapalampas,” he said.

(There were even reports of our local police being detained and were not allowed to investigate crime scenes. This is the height of disrespect, which we should not take sitting down.)

Pangilinan also pointed out that the pervasive presence of Chinese POGO workers in our neighborhoods has also fueled racial antagonism among local residents, who rightfully detest some of the foreigners’ dirty habit of smoking, among others.

“Meron ding mga isyu ng pananamantala sa mga manggagawang Tsino, ng mga iresponsableng operator at ng di-pagbayad ng buwis sa industriyang ito. Di dapat binabalewala ang mga ito,” he added.

(There are issues as well of exploited Chinese workers, fly-by-night operators, and non-payment of taxes in this industry. All these should not be ignored.)

China earlier raised concern about their citizens who were illegally recruited to work in POGOs as well as the move of Pagcor to transfer Chinese workers to self-contained communities for fear that this may infringe on their basic legal rights.

Thousands of Chinese workers were earlier reported to be illegally working for more than 50 online gambling hubs in the Philippines.

Beijing also appealed to Manila to heed its concerns and punish Philippine casinos and other forms of gambling entities that are illegally recruiting its citizens.

“The Chinese side also urges relevant departments of the Philippine Government to strengthen law enforcement cooperation with China to jointly combating gambling-related crimes such as money-laundering, illegal employment, kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder, etc so as to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens, and to promote China-Philippine friendship and cooperation,” it added.

Pangilinan further stressed that no less than Philippine defense officials have raised the possibility of these POGOs being used to spy on Filipinos.

“Kritikal ang masasalimuot na isyung nakakabit sa mga POGO operation. Di patas sa kinikita ng gobyerno (The complex issues connected to POGO operations are critical and could outweigh the earnings government rake in),” he said.

Lorenzana sees ROTC as good way to reawaken love for country among youth

Maris Federez   •   August 26, 2019

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Presidential Photo)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana believes that the best way to rekindle the essence of love for the country among the youth is to reintroduce to them the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Lorenzana said the ROTC will teach the youth the value of discipline, respect for the higher-ups and service to the country.

Lorenzana added that it is the duty of everyone to impress into the hearts of the young people the essence of loving the country like what our heroes have done in the past, offering the lives for the country. (with details from Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

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