POGO hubs won't limit workers' freedom: PAGCOR chair

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2019 06:45 PM

A Pogo worker is seen posing in a booth during the Phil-Asian Gaming Expo held at SMX Convention Center on July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Offshore gaming hubs were not meant to limit the freedom of foreign workers but offer convenience and protection, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Andrea Domingo said Thursday, after the Chinese envoy to the Philippines expressed concern over the "self-contained" hubs. 

The Chinese Embassy in Manila issued a statement on Thursday expressing its "grave concern" over moving offshore gaming operations in self-contained hubs, which it said might "infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens." 

It also urged the Philippine government to "punish" companies that are illegally recruiting Chinese nationals to work in the offshore gaming industry and the alleged abuses their compatriots suffer here.

But PAGCOR said the sites are being established for the convenience and protection of workers against exposure to crime. 

"When we refer to POGO hubs as self-contained communities, what we mean is that these hubs will have all the basic needs of the foreign employees of POGO... They are no longer exposed to crimes being committed against them on the streets," PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo said in a statement. 

"Nonetheless, they are free to go anywhere they want to without any limitation on their personal rights or liberties," she added. 

Gaming firm and POGO hub developer Oriental Group earlier said satellite offices of government agencies such as the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Labor and Employment will be established within the hubs for easier regulation.

Oriental is developing a 10-hectare POGO hub in Clark and a 20-hectare hub in Kawit, Cavite. 

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) show an increasing number of kidnap-for-ransom cases involving Chinese nationals, mostly loan shark abductions.

In 2018, 17 Chinese nationals were kidnapped, more than double (112.5 percent) compared to 8 in 2017. There were 6 incidents reported in the first half of 2019, data showed.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Manila "will not allow any abuse on any foreign visitor or worker in this country from our own countrymen."