Chinese casinos near PH military camps worry DND
MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday (Aug. 16) raised concern over the location of Chinese casinos, also known as Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo), which appeared to be too close for comfort to Philippine military camps in Metro Manila.
“This is very concerning until such time I saw the map,” Lorenzana told reporters. “They are near,” he said.
He cited the locations of Chinese casinos at Araneta Center and Eastwood which are within striking distance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
Pictures of satellite maps showing the locations of the Chinese casinos near some of the Philippine military’s biggest camps in Metro Manila had gone viral on social media.
The Philippine defense installations near the Chinese casinos, which employ an army of up to 130,000 Chinese workers, included Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine National Police headquarters Camp Crame, the Air Force headquarters in Pasay City, the Philippine Army headquarters in Taguig City and the Philippine Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard.
In Kawit, Cavite, a 36-hectare former resort is being transformed into a Pogo hub that can accommodate up to 20,000 Chinese workers. The site is just 3 kilometers from a facility being used by the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing and Philippine naval base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, a former US base in Cavite province.
Lawmakers have also recently expressed concern on the location of Pogo centers near military camps.
While it remains unlikely for now, Lorenzana said the Chinese workers in Pogo facilities can shift their operations to spying.
“Personally, I think there should be no need to worry,” Lorenzana said.”But if you see the huge number of people staying there, it’s very easy for these people to shift their activities to spying,” he said.
Pogos, the new jargon for online casinos, service mainly Chinese gamblers based in mainland China where gambling is illegal. The industry has seen an influx of Chinese workers in recent years as online casinos need people proficient in Mandarin, the dominant language in mainland China.
The virtual invasion of Chinese workers into several urban locations in the Philippines has also led to a spike in real property costs. The Philippine National Police, in a report in INQUIRER.net on Thursday (Aug. 15), estimated the number of Chinese nationals who are already in the Philippines to be 250,000, nearly the same as the manpower of the AFP.
The Chinese Embassy, in a recent statement, said since gambling is illegal in China, the operations of Pogos are a violation of Chinese laws. The statement also called on the Philippine government to crack down on the illegal recruitment of Chinese nationals for illegal casino operations.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), the Philippine casino regulating agency, has proposed to build Pogo hubs exclusively for the Chinese workers, which will give them housing and other needs and access to government agencies with small offices in the hubs.
Lorenzana said he believed building hubs for the Chinese casino workers was a good idea. “I support the idea to put them in a hub,” he said.
“They would be far from the military camps so they can be controlled by authorities and finance and they can be monitored by immigration to see who’s getting in and out,” Lorenzana added.
The defense chief said if he had his way, casinos for Chinese should not be near Philippine military camps.
He said the locations of the Chinese casinos should hopefully not be near the camps. “But these are the areas who offered spaces for casinos like Araneta Center, it’s a huge area then Eastwood,” Lorenzana said. He said Island Cove, which is now becoming a Chinese casino hub, is very near a Philippine naval facility where “we are going to park our capital ships in the near future.”
While recognizing the economic contribution of Chinese casinos to the Philippines, Lorenzana said defense officials are also looking at the industry’s national security implications. “We encourage these people to come here to invest. We are making a lot of money from Pogo industry,” he said. “And to now question why they’re here is like a contradiction of policy,” he added.
“It’s just probable. We are looking forward because of the distrust now prevailing against China n the South China Sea,” Lorenzana said. “We are a little hesitant to be trusting. We are just being cautious,” he said.
“It’s always good to think ahead so we won’t have regrets,” said the defense chief./TSB
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