Hontiveros joins fray on Pogos as security risks
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday joined the fray over an exchange of accusations between Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and Philippine defense chief Delfin Lorenzana involving the operations of online casinos for Chinese in the Philippines.
Hontiveros, in a statement, said Zhao’s remarks that he might also think Filipinos in China were capable of spying just as Lorenzana said Chinese workers at the casinos were capable of doing was “insulting” and “false.”
“This could be considered as a veiled threat to the life and livelihood of our countrymen in China,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.
She said overseas Filipino workers in China are not spies, pose no threat to Chinese national security and are nowhere near Chinese military bases and facilities in China.
“To insinuate that they could be committing espionage is not only insulting, but plainly false,” Hontiveros added.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo had said that Zhao sent him a text message in which the ambassador said, “What if we also think that your overseas workers are also spying on us?”
READ: Envoy to Panelo: What if China suspects OFWs of spying, too?
The Chinese envoy made the statement after Lorenzana raised the possibility of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in online casinos could “shift to spying”.
READ: ‘Preposterous’: Lorenzana hits China envoy’s remark on OFWs ‘spying’ | Panelo: Duterte believes it’s ‘natural’ for countries to spy on each other
Hontiveros said the issue was the proximity of casinos to military camps which could be exploited to undermine Philippine national security.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Zhao’s statement was “just a way of turning the tables on Filipinos who have raised a valid point concerning the locations of Pogos in the country.”
Pogos, or Philippine offshore gaming operations, are located near military and police bases like Camp Aguinaldo (Armed Forces of the Philippines); Camp Crame (Philippine National Police); Camp Bagong Diwa (PNP National Capital Region Police Office); Fort Bonifacio (Philippine Army); Villamor Air Base (Philippine Air Force); and the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila.
“But what is more important factor though is that they have a motive for spying in the Philippines especially with their aggressive and militaristic stance in the West Philippine Sea,” he added./TSB
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