Pagcor: Pogo hubs meant to protect Chinese
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine authorities defended the plan to create “self-contained” communities where Chinese citizens employed in the booming online gaming industry could “live, work and play,” saying the scheme was intended to protect rather than persecute foreign workers.
In a press statement on Friday night, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair and CEO Andrea Domingo said these measures echoed the kind of protection the government expected Filipinos would get if they worked abroad.
“We value and protect the rights and safety of foreign workers in the country in as much as we want the rights and safety of Filipino overseas workers to be valued and protected,” she said in justifying the plan to house up to 138,000 Chinese working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo) in these so-called “hubs.”
Pagcor made this clarification in light of the objections raised by the Chinese Embassy to the remarks made by the agency’s special assistant to the chair Jose Tria Jr. in a TV interview regarding this arrangement.
The agency said the proponents of these hubs were required to develop within their property not just office and residential spaces, but also food establishments, groceries or convenience stores, wellness and recreational facilities, service shops and other amenities which may be needed by foreign workers.
They were also required to provide free office spaces to government agencies exercising regulatory or oversight functions over the industry.
“These hubs were conceptualized to respond to and address the concerns which Pagcor management has received over the two years since it has regulated the offshore gaming industry,” the agency said.
These included reports that employers were providing their foreign workers with substandard working environments and living quarters. Some foreign news accounts also likened Chinese employees to “slave workers.”
There were also reports that these foreign workers were prone to being victims of theft, extortion and, at times, kidnapping.
On the other hand, many Filipinos have complained about the unruly behavior of some foreign workers.
The Chinese Embassy on Thursday expressed “grave concern” that Pagcor’s plans to establish Pogo hubs at Clark Freeport in Pampanga and in Kawit, Cavite, might violate the rights of Chinese workers.
It asked the government to protect the “legitimate rights and interests” of Chinese citizens in the country, and tighten regulations on the industry credited with helping sustain the real-estate boom in the country.
Malacañang assured the Chinese government that the Philippines would not allow the violation of the rights of foreigners legally working in the country.
Pagcor said the decision to concentrate Pogo employees in these hubs was a response to the discovery that some did not have the proper work documents and that their taxes were not being correctly remitted by their employers.
“With them hosted in specific sites, Pagcor and other relevant government agencies, can readily address all their concerns and protect them from harassment and harm,” the agency said.
“Moreover, when Pagcor refers to these hubs as ‘self-contained communities,’ it does not imply any restriction on the personal rights or liberties of the workers,” the regulator said. “They are free to go wherever they may want to, do whatever they may want to, within the limits of the law.”
Pagcor said it would not tolerate any wrongdoing or any illegal act, such as the confiscation of their passports, and would maintain offices in these hubs — manned 24/7 — to extend assistance to any foreign worker who may need it.
The Chinese complaint came as lawmakers and some officials called for tighter controls on Chinese entering the country.
Sen. Joel Villanueva on Thursday said his labor committee might discuss the proposed hubs, but also national security, money laundering and the impact of Pogos on Filipinos.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros sought an inquiry into reports that Chinese investors were planning to put up resorts on Fuga Island in the Babuyan archipelago and on Grande and Chiquita islands on Subic Bay, citing security concerns raised by the Philippine Navy.
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