Makati stops licensing online gambling service providers
MANILA, Philippines — Makati City has indefinitely suspended the issuance of business licenses and permits to service providers for Philippine offshore gaming operators, or Pogos, because the sudden rise of this business has created a local real estate bubble that is near bursting point, and increasing crime, including prostitution, committed by the companies — mostly Chinese employees.
In a strongly worded statement on Sunday, Makati Mayor Abby Binay said the city would no longer issue letters of no objection for business licenses to Pogo service providers.
“We would no longer accept new applications for Pogo service providers, and crack down hard against illegal activities that are catering to Pogos and their employees within Makati,”Binay said.
Six other cities in Metro Manila — Mandaluyong, Quezon City, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa — issue letters of no objection, one of the requirements of gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for the operation of Pogos.
Binay said the Chinese rush in the city had increased the demand for housing and offices, causing drastic spikes in real property prices.
“This puts the local property sector at risk of overheating, where its growth becomes unsustainable,”Binay said.
The mayor also said the increasing demand for housing for Pogo employees had given rise to substandard but high-rent apartments.
“These apartments are usually overcrowded with insufficient exits and faulty fire-alarm systems,”she said.
Data from the Department of Tourism showed that, from January to September this year alone, more than 1.35 million Chinese entered the Philippines, higher than the total Chinese tourist arrivals of 1.2 million for the whole of 2018.
Filipinos out, Chinese in
Janella (not her real name), 26, moved from her province to Makati to shorten her commute to work.
But the influx of Chinese nationals, willing and able to pay more than double what she and other Filipinos paid in rent, threw her out of the apartment she was renting in Barangay San Antonio, the center of Chinese activities in the city’s central business district.
She said she began renting the 15-square-meter apartment in 2017 at P7,500 a month, which went up to P8,000 a year later.
In June 2019, however, her landlord asked her and the other tenants to move out, saying the place needed to be renovated.
“But I know it was just an excuse. She wanted her apartments to be rented by the Chinese, who could pay much more,” Janella said.
“All our Filipino neighbors were gone, replaced by Chinese nationals. The house fronts were plastered with sign boards written in Chinese, and there were dozens of Chinese being shuttled by vans late in the night. And one by one, Chinese restaurants had popped up in the neighborhood,”she said.
“I feel like I do not belong there anymore. I was evicted in my own country in favor of Chinese nationals,”she added.
More crimes She said she could no longer afford living in San Antonio, where a single-room apartment rents for at least P10,000 a month.
Janella found an apartment in Barangay Poblacion, which she pays for P9,000 a month, almost a third of her monthly paycheck.
According to Binay, Makati has recently seen an increase in unlawful activities involving Chinese and intended for Chinese Pogo employees.
In the past two months alone, the city government has closed down four illegal Pogo service providers, two establishments that have been used as prostitution dens whose patrons are Chinese men, and a restaurant and catering company servicing mostly Chinese and found to have been violating the local sanitation code.
Last week, local authorities seized P2.5 billion worth of illegal drugs in an apartment-building-turned-warehouse in Barangay San Antonio rented by a Chinese national.
Chinese nationals topped the list of foreigners arrested in Metro Manila for committing crimes.
Last year, 333 Chinese were arrested in Pasay, Makati, Taguig, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Pateros. In 2018 and 2017, 360 Chinese were arrested in Metro Manila for various crimes.
According to Makati City Hall, the city is home to about 300 Pogo service providers employing thousands of workers, mostly Chinese nationals. But according to Pagcor, it has registered only around 200 Pogo service providers.
Binay, however, said most of these companies were licensed by Pagcor and registered with the city business permits and licensing office, earning for the city more than P200 million a year in tax revenue.
“We will always welcome legitimate businesses in the city that strictly adhere to all laws and ordinances, particularly the payment of taxes. And we will always strive to provide these businesses and their employees with a safe environment conducive to business growth and personal activities,”she said.
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