Palace, DOJ not alarmed over POGO location fears
(The Philippine Star) – August 18, 2019 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — While the security concern raised by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is legitimate, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo seem to agree more to the logic of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who intimated to him an observation that Philippine officials tend to be very serious about security issues.
“Ang problema ata masyado tayong (The problem is we are too) security conscious,” Panelo said on the sidelines of the celebration of the Moon Festival initiated by the Federation of the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (FFCCCII) in Quezon City yesterday.
He expressed no alarm on reports regarding the large presence of Chinese-dominated offshore gambling centers near military installations—a point raised by Lorenzana in an interview with The Chiefs on Cignal’s One News Channel.
According to Panelo, he received a text from Zhao who discussed with him the concerns spawned by the influx of undocumented Chinese in the country.
It was supposedly in this exchange of text messages where Zhao pointed out a situation where the Chinese would also be wary of the presence of Filipino workers in China, and how the Filipinos would feel about being viewed as spies.
Panelo said the Palace would rather consider the position of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon who said it would be better to know where the Chinese workers are than just letting them stay where they please.
Lorenzana said the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) are not a threat per se to the country’s security even while expressing concerns over their proximity to military camps and facilities.
He found an ally in Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, who said POGOs crowding around military camps is a “valid concern.”
“What is more worrying is the petty corruption involving some employees of regulatory agencies like the LTO and the Immigration Bureau where identification documents, like a driver’s license or a temporary work permit, are easily obtained mostly by Chinese tourists, through bribery involving unscrupulous officials,” Lacson said.
As for the creation of POGO hubs in the country, Panelo would rather leave the matter to the Philippine Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara also does not see anything wrong with the creation of a POGO hub if it would look like an “economic zone.”
He also does not see the influx of Chinese tourists in the country as a problem or a cause for alarm for “as long as they obey the laws and ordinances, respect the Filipino’s customs and traditions, and do not take away jobs that Filipinos themselves can do.”
“Our own countrymen migrate by the hundreds of thousands to other countries, but no one has expressed any serious concern at all,” Guevarra added.
FFCCCII president Henry Lim Bon Liong would rather leave it to President Duterte to discuss the issue during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month.
Guevarra said the Department of Justice and the BI are now tightening the rules for the issuance of visa-upon-arrival to foreign nationals.
He also said that they intend to limit the maximum permissible period for Chinese tourists to 30 days, blacklist overstaying aliens, ensure non-convertibility to work visas and impose sanctions on travel agencies breaking the rules.
Meanwhile, Parañaque City police chief P/Col. Rogelio Rosales said there seems to be a correlation between the sprouting of gambling establishments in the city and the rise in the number of kidnapping, illegal detention and abduction cases involving Chinese nationals. – With Robertzon Ramirez, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Ralph Edwin Villanueva
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