PRRD ready to explain PH’s stand on POGO: envoy

BEIJING � President Rodrigo Duterte is prepared to explain to Chinese President Xi Jinping the Philippines' position on online gaming if ever this matter will be raised during their bilateral meeting here Thursday night, the Philippine envoy said.

Philippine Ambassador Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said in a press conference that it is vital for the two leaders to understand differences between the Philippines and China on online gambling and identify areas where both parties can cooperate.

Last week, China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang has welcomed the Philippine government's move to suspend issuing new online gambling licenses and stated that China hopes the Philippines will ban all online gambling. All forms of gambling in China are illegal.

They can't dictate on us. That's our sovereign decision. That is where we stand, Sta. Romana said.

Online gaming in the Philippines is legal. The concept of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry has attracted Chinese investors to put up their online gaming businesses in the Philippines.

Sta. Romana said banning online gaming will have an economic impact in the Philippines.

According to Leechiu Property Consultants, POGO industry is forecasted to exceed the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in office space take-up. POGOs are seen to lease as much as 480,000 square meters of office space this year compared to BPO's demand for 450,000 sqm.

So if we are to do it, we want a soft landing. We don't want a drastic impact that will adversely affect the economy, he said.

However, the POGO industry also raises concerns on criminal elements such as syndicates, kidnapping of Chinese, and hiring of gunmen in the Philippines.

[A] lot of them are related to online gambling. But it's not only Chinese syndicates; there are some Filipino criminal elements, guns for hire in the Philippines that are working together with them. So, both are interested to crackdown on this. So that's an area of commonality, the envoy here said.

He mentioned that early this month the anti-kidnapping group of the Philippine National Police visited China and met their counterparts to cooperate in strengthening law enforcement in cracking down on the criminal elements related to online gambling.

He added that the Philippine government is also making efforts to regulate online gambling by tightening rules and creating hubs for close monitoring.

All of this is to ensure to keep within bounds. And with the Chinese now taking the position, it's possible to business that we downsize to an appropriate level that will be supported by the market that is available, said Sta. Romana.

Congress' move

On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said MalacaAang would leave it to Congress to decide whether or not POGOs should be banned in the Philippines.

Sa ngayon anong magagawa natin kung legal yan. Alangan namang gawin nating illegal, di naman siya nag pupwedeng mag-declare illegal kasi Kongreso yon (At present, what can we do if it's legal. We can't make it illegal, it's not him who can declare it illegal, it's Congress), Panelo told reporters in a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday (Aug. 28).

Kasi yung gaming operations sa atin legal eh (because our gaming operations here are legal). What probably we could do is to be very strict on a grant of licenses to operators, he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on Thursday in a bilateral meeting where POGOs among other issues may be discussed.

Panelo raised the possibility that it would be Xi to raise the issue instead of Duterte.

I think it will be the other side (who) will be raising that because their concern as far as they are concern, it is illegal � this online gaming operations, Panelo said.

Sila ang parang interesado and concern dahil yung mga subject nila.. ang object ng gaming operation. Sila siguro mag-re-raise niyan (They are the ones interested and concerned about it because their subjectsthe object of gaming operations. They might raise it), he added.(With reports from Azer Parrocha/PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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