MANILA - Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Wednesday called for the "immediate closure" of errant Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) amid the "influx of illegality" hounding the industry.
"Bastusan na ito. We call for the immediate deportation of all Chinese nationals involved in prostitution, corruption, bribery, and other illegal activities," he said following a series of legislative inquiries that exposed irregularities, such as sex trade and corruption, linked to the proliferation of POGOs.
"Huwag nating hayaang bastusin tayo sa sariling bahay natin."
(We should not allow them to insult in our own house.)
The offshore gaming operations, Pangilinan said, should undergo "intensive investigation and regulation."
"For the past 3 years, the country has experienced an influx of illegality: from billions worth of illegal drugs slipping through Bureau of Customs, to illegal immigrants claiming housing and job opportunities that should have been for Filipinos first, to the ever-increasing cases of prostitution and sex trafficking surrounding POGOs that target our most vulnerable: women and children," he said.
The senator also called for the "immediate deportation" of Chinese nationals involved in criminal acts.
"Tama na. Sobra na. Isipin natin ang mga Pilipino. Unahin natin ang mga Pilipino," he said.
(Stop it. It's too much. Think about the Filipinos. Let's put Filipinos first.)
On Monday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros revealed that Chinese citizens seeking work in the Philippines amid the online gambling boom bribed immigration officers to enter the country.
Last week, a Senate inquiry found out that the industry allegedly failed to pay at least P50 billion in taxes.
Most Chinese workers reportedly come to the country using tourist visas, but were still able to secure employment in POGO hubs and receive salaries without paying taxes.
A 23-year-old Taiwanese woman also claimed to have been trafficked into the country to work for a POGO company. The victim, Lai Yu Cian, said she experienced illegal detention and even sexual abuse.
Philippine authorities are also investigating the proliferation of sex rings catering to POGO workers.
The Philippines' gaming regulator said in Aug. 2019 the country has 60 licensed POGO operators, which employs nearly 138,000 Chinese nationals.
In 2019, the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp (Pagcor) collected almost P4 billion from POGO operations while target revenue for 2020 operations is between P9 to P10 billion.