By Martin Sadongdong
Top officials of the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday admitted that they were watching closely the establishment of Chinese-dominated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) near military camps.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and General Benjamin Madrigal, AFP Chief-of-Staff, confirmed that they have received information about the POGO hubs being set up near military camps in Metro Manila.
A POGO center was established in Eastwood City and Araneta Center in Quezon City near Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the AFP.
Meanwhile, Resorts World is located near Villamor Airbase in Pasay City where the Philippine Air Force (PAF) headquarters is located.
“That is very concerning,” Lorenzana said in the establishment of POGOs near military camps.
“Personally, I think there should be no need to worry. Pero kung nakikita mo na siguro maraming tao dyan na palaging nandyan (But if you see there are a lot of people in the area and some of them are frequently there), it’s very easy for these people to shift their activities into spying kung mayroon mang mag-eespiya (if there are really spies), so mabilis lang (it’s easy to do),” he stated.
As for Madrigal, he said that national development and security should always be considered by the government when approving projects that are supposed to boost the economy.
“We are on the security side of this, and, therefore, we provide information with economic considerations. Lahat ito ibinabalanse natin (We balance all these things),” he said.
“Mas maganda na naiimpormahan kami para nabibigyan din natin ng kaukulang impormasyon ang ating (It’s better if we are being informed [about the establishment of POGOs] so that we can give information to our) economic planners and development planners regarding the security aspect of proposed projects,” he added.
Lorenzana attributed the “paranoia” to the distrust of the Philippines towards China because of the heightened tension in the South China Sea.
“It’s because of the distrust natin na nangyayari ngayon sa (that we have on) China, sa (in the) South China Sea, sa (in the) West Philippine Sea. Medyo alanganin tayong magkumpyansa sa kanila (We’re not sure whether we can trust them),” he said.
If the Defense Chief will have it his way, he said he would not want POGO hubs to be situated near military camps, adding that he would relocate the ones that were already built near the camps to other places.
“Oo, huwag sana (Yes, they should not be [near military camps],” he said.