Deportation of Chinese POGO workers starts with 6
MANILA, Philippines — Six down, more than 48,000 to go.
The government on Wednesday started deporting Chinese workers of unlicensed Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) companies to their home country.
The first batch of six Chinese deportees took a Philippine Airlines flight to Wuhan, China, shortly before 3 p.m.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the Chinese nationals, all males, departed on “self-deportation,” which meant they paid for their trip back home.
Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco identified the deportees as Yu Min, Nie Zhengbiao, Gan Xueliang, Xu Yuangang, Qian Jie, and Yang Bin.
They left the country along with two others who were deported for overstaying, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said.
Both Remulla and Tansingco monitored the deportation at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
According to the BI chief, the group was the first batch of more than 300 foreign nationals arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police in separate operations in September.
“[They] voluntarily surrendered their documentation so they can go back to their home country,” Tansingco noted.
He added that they have coordinated with the Chinese Embassy to expedite the release of the travel documents of the rest of the deportees.
The BI has also canceled the visas of 1,424 foreign nationals who worked for Pogos whose licenses have been canceled by the state regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Tansingco said they have included the names of the 1,424 in their derogatory database to ensure that their visas are downgraded from work to tourist so they need to leave the country within 60 days.
In all, there are more than 48,000 foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, working for unlicensed POGOs that the government is targeting for deportation.
“We have prioritized the cancellation of those who have valid and existing visas, and are still in the country. We are still cross-checking our database to see [who] are still in the country,” Tansingco added.
He said those who fail to leave the country within the period could be arrested and deportation proceedings initiated against them.
During Wednesday’s hearing of the House labor and employment committee on POGOs and the sector’s impact on revenues, the economy, and employment, officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) reiterated that economic benefits from the sector have been slowing down.
Finance Undersecretary Maria Cielo Magno cited the drop in tax collections and revenues generated by Pagcor.
From P7.18 billion in taxes that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected from Pogos in 2020, this slumped to P3.91 billion in 2021. From January to July this year, however, the BIR has raised P3.9 billion in taxes from POGOs, approximating the revenues for the whole of last year.
Pagcor also recorded P8.02 billion in earnings from Pogos in 2019, which shrank to P3.47 billion in 2021.
For the first seven months of 2022, Pagcor earned P1.7 billion from POGOs in the form of regulatory and other fees.
Magno estimated the total economic benefits from POGOs at P64.61 billion, or 0.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or the total value of goods and services produced by the economy during a specified period.
Magno also noted that crimes related to the sector, the presence of illegal POGOs and the entry of undocumented Chinese workers, human trafficking, and unjust labor conditions might dent the country’s tourism and investment potential.
“We also want to point out concerns with respect to tourists. If you look at crimes related to POGOs, it can have a direct effect on the number of tourists who come to the country, and foreign direct investment,” Magno said.
Fewer Chinese tourists
The Pogo sector has been under fire following incidents of abductions and extortion involving Chinese nationals.
Some lawmakers have pushed for a total ban of POGOs, which cater mainly to Chinese online gamblers, while others such as House ways and means panel chair Rep. Joey Salceda wanted the government to run after illegal Pogos instead.
During the House hearing, Salceda disputed the DOF’s assertion that POGOs caused the drop in Chinese tourist arrivals to the Philippines, pointing out that the number of visitors from China fell the world over, not just in the Philippines, because of China’s zero COVID policy.
The lawmaker said Chinese tourists “are not going anywhere” due to China’s lockdown and that Chinese tourist arrivals were down 90 percent worldwide.
Salceda, who sponsored the POGO law that taxed the industry, said tourist arrivals in countries where POGOs are banned were no different than those in countries such as the Philippines where POGOs are legal.
Lawyer Michael Danganan, representative of the Association of Service Providers and POGOs, which employs more than 23,000 Filipino workers, also asked the House panel to carefully weigh the sector’s economic contributions, including jobs and livelihoods, before deciding the fate of the online gaming industry.
Banning POGOs will be good for tourism – NEDA
Pogos’ annual contribution to economy accounts for 1% of GDP — Gatchalian
23,000 Filipinos to lose jobs once POGOs leave, group warns
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