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President ‘not worried’ POGOs near military camps are spy hubs

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte was not worried over the presence of Philippine offshore gaming operation (POGO) hubs near military camps amid concerns that these might be used for spying activities, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“The President said, with respect to proximity, any foreign national group here need not be near military camps in order to get intelligence. Because considering that they’re hi-tech, even if you’re 1,000 miles away, they can spy on us if they want,” Panelo said.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier expressed concern over the proposed POGO hubs, citing national security.

While the concern raised by Lorenzana was “legitimate,” the Palace said that the President was not overly worried over the matter.

“According to him, our capabilities in intelligence information gathering is good,” Panelo said, adding that the government considered Pogos, which cater to online gamblers in China, an important source of revenues.

The Palace also maintained that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s response to the military’s expressed fears of Chinese spies that “overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China can also be suspected of spying” would not apply to Filipinos.

“The Office of the President shares the sentiment of Secretary Lorenzana and [socioeconomic and planning] Secretary [Ernesto] Pernia when they said that OFWs go to China for work,” Panelo said.

The Palace said Lorenzana may formally present his stance on the matter in the next Cabinet meeting in September.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros described Zhao’s statement on OFWs spying as a “veiled threat” and insulting to Filipinos.

“Filipinos abroad are valued both for their skill and unique blend of hard work and care. They pose no threat. In fact, in China, our workers are employed in areas that are nowhere near military and security facilities. To insinuate that they could be committing espionage is not only insulting, but plainly false,” she said in a statement.

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TAGS: Chinese workers, Delfin Lorenzana, POGOs, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, spy hubs, Zhao Jianhua
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