By Genalyn Kabiling
The proposed hubs for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) may be established as long as the liberties of their workers are not restricted, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo maintained that the Palace supports the creation of the hubs for online casinos that employ Chinese workers but stressed the importance of protecting the rights of these foreigners.
“We will support it as long as there is no violation. We have to protect all the nationals staying in the country,” Panelo said in a news conference at the Palace.
“If their liberties are not restricted and, according to them, they’re doing it to protect them, so if that’s the essence of the place, I don’t think that will be a violation,” he added.
Panelo said there will only be violation of the rights of the workers if their “liberties and movements” are restricted.
“But if they say there’s no restriction, that’s favorable for the Chinese,” he said.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) recently clarified that the planned transfer of online casinos to self-contained communities was mainly to provide basic needs of foreign workers and ensure their protection, not isolate them.
The POGO hubs would reportedly have office and residential spaces, food establishments to recreational facilities and other service shops.
Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo also said POGO workers remain free to go wherever they want to.
Domingo’s statement came after the embassy of China in Manila expressed concern over the establishment of self-contained communities for POGO workers amid concerns this might violate the rights of Chinese workers.
Malacañang has assured that the government will not tolerate any violation of the country’s laws, including immigration rules. He also said the government would enforce the law to deal with any abuse of foreign workers in online casinos.
On Domingo’s claim that workers in online casinos do not constitute a national security threat, Panelo said this was the opinion of the Pagcor chief.
But he said he would defer to the opinion of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. because “it is his job.” Esperon earlier claimed that the influx of Chinese nationals in the country may pose as a security risk.
“What is important I think is if there is a violation of immigration laws, then they will be subjected to the same,” Panelo said.