MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified his stance on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), saying he did not accuse POGOs of spying on the government.
“I’m not saying they (POGOs) are now spying. I’m just raising the alarm that they could be later on. Because there are too many of them, napakarami nila masyado rito, libo-libo na yan eh,” Lorenzana said Tuesday.
“And not only spying, but some of the social problems that could crop up while they are there in the vicinity of the camps.”
Lorenzana reacted to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement, read by Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo, saying China does not need to be close to Philippine military bases to spy on them.
“The President said that they can also spy even if they are very far away, but it is better that they are away than very near approximate to our camps. Sa akin lang, sa palagay ko,” he said.
"But it’s true. They can spy on you even from afar because of technology."
Lorenzana earlier said POGOs located near major military bases may be a security risk.
The top defense official said consultations with the economic sector and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) are needed to strike a balance between profiting from POGOs and protecting military bases from espionage.
“Because the POGO operations are bringing us a substantial amount of money. Are we willing to lose those POGOs? Depende. We will explore and study some more before we make a recommendation,” Lorenzana said.
Responding to queries from defense bloggers who observed many of the POGO Chinese workers look like military men, Lorenzana said “they have a point there because all these people are young people."
"If you look at the POGOs, the people who come here are really very adept at running computers eh. Hindi na matatanda yon. The millennials, they are the expert there. So normally, sila ang pumupunta rito para magpatakbo ng operations nila," Lorenzana emphasized.
Lorenzana, however, would not go as far as accusing these workers of being soldiers at this point.
“While there is a claim that they are short haircut, malalaki ang katawan, I think coincidence lang siguro. I’m not saying they are spying, or they are military men,” he said.
Lorenzana said that just the same, he does not discount the possibility of these people being used by the Chinese government in the future.
“Probable. Possible. That they can be used later on to spy on us,” he said.