MANILA - (UPDATE) Senator Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday said licenses of offshore gaming firms should be revoked, backing China's call to ban an industry that allegedly gave rise crimes such as money laundering and illegal recruitment.
"Condoning" Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) casts doubt on the government's crackdown on criminality and corruption, Pangilinan said.
"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," the lawmaker said.
(China is right. 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 in doubt with Chinese criminal syndicates being allowed to do illegal businesses freely here)
In a separate statement, Senator Joel Villanueva said POGOs were "fertile ground for illicit transactions."
"If our government does not put in safeguards on this sector as soon as possible, we risk being branded as another money laundering hotspot," Villanueva said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza earlier said the presence of POGOs near military bases was "concerning."
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines urged the Philippine government to punish firms that are illegally employing Chinese nationals and to ban POGOs.
Gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp has suspended the acceptance of new POGO applications until concerns raised are addressed, chairman Andrea Domingo said.-- with a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News