By Jean Fernando
Chinese employees of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) numbering to about 35,000 were directed by the Parañaque City government to submit their respective coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test starting next week. This is to ensure that they are virus free when they return to work.
Mayor Edwin Olivarez also ordered POGO operators and managers to examine their returning workers for coronavirus symptoms, travel history, and possible exposure to the virus 14 days prior to reporting for work.
Olivarez signed last week Executive Order 37 directing public and private employees to undergo mandatory testing to reduce the transmission of the virus in the city. On the other hand, employers should have their employees tested to ensure that only COVID-free people are working.
The city government has been monitoring the movements of foreign nationals who are employed in POGO firms amid COVID-19 pandemic scare not only in Metro Manila but the entire country.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Paranaque was hosting 19 POGO offices with 18,000 to 22,000 workers.
There are about 10,000 to 13,000 Chinese nationals who are into restaurant and convenient store businesses using Filipino dummies while others are reportedly involved in prostitution.
According to the mayor, since these POGO firms are operating in the city, they are mandating that they must have testing.
In a period of seven days they must test their employees for COVID-19, he explained. “If these employees failed to comply with this requirement, for sure they cannot continue to work while the POGO operations will not be allowed,” Olivarez said.
He pointed out that employers must find a government-accredited testing facility on their own and “they will also shoulder the cost of each test.”
Olivarez explained that employees who fail to submit COVID test results face corresponding charges.
The executive order, he said, is in the exercise of police power of the local government unit for the general welfare of people.
Last April, authorities arrested 44 Chinese nationals and nine Filipinos in the city for illegal online gambling activities.
The 53 suspects were nabbed at the Mayuga Compound, Barangay Tambo, Parañaque City, local operatives said.