CHINA “stands ready” to step up law enforcement cooperation with the Philippines to protect the civilians who have been victims of illegal operations by the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian emphasized this when he raised the need to protect and promote the “legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines”.
The Chinese embassy in Manila in a statement quoted reports that most of the recent crimes against its citizens in the Philippines are related to POGOs.
“It is appreciated that relevant Philippine law enforcement agencies have rescued a number of Chinese citizens and closed down some POGO businesses during their recent operations,” the embassy said.
Huang met with Justice Minister Jesus Crispin Remulla on Wednesday to discuss joint law enforcement cooperation to fight illegal POGOs, some of which are run by the Chinese.
The ambassador said the Chinese government is “strong resisting and taking tough measures to fight gambling”.
Huang said that under Chinese laws and regulations, gambling in any form by Chinese citizens, be it online gambling or gambling abroad, is “unlawful”.
Crimes caused by and related to online gambling not only harm the interests of China and relations between China and the Philippines, but also harm the interests of the Philippines.
The Chinese government protects the legitimate rights and interests of its citizens in accordance with the law, everywhere and at all times, the embassy said.
“The Chinese side welcomes the Philippine side to take strong measures to tackle the crimes related to POGOs and address the root cause to tackle the social problems in a profound way,” the embassy said.
The embassy added that it will cooperate with the Philippine government in the deportation of Chinese citizens allegedly involved in POGO-related crimes.
Senate Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd on Tuesday asked Remulla if there is a possibility that POGO workers will voluntarily return to China at their own expense rather than have them deported by the government.
The senator said that as there are calls to make POGO operations illegal in the country, it is likely that some operators will downsize or even close shop.
“Is it possible that affected POGO employees would go back? [to their home country] on its own initiative? That we don’t have to resort to eviction?” Pimentel asked during the Senate Finance Committee’s hybrid hearing on the Justice Department’s proposed 2023 budget.
Remulla said self-porting is possible, but they should keep an eye on the affected POGO workers as most of them may not consider going back to China as a good option due to the penalties they face.