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Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto: 'If you want to do business in our city, you follow our laws'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto: 'If you want to do business in our city, you follow our laws'
"If you want to do business in our City, you follow our laws," the mayor wrote.
Twitter / Vico Sotto

MANILA, Philippines — Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto on Sunday expressed support for the Bureau of Immigration in going after foreign workers and businesspeople who are in the Philippines illegally.

Sotto made the statement in a Facebook post showing photos of the shuttered Fu Yuan Ji, which reportedly was closed for lacking the necessary permits.

"If you want to do business in our city, you follow our laws," Mayor Sotto said.

"On a similar note, we are happy to hear about the removal of immigration officers who were involved in allowing Chinese workers to enter the Philippines illegally," he also said.

 "[J]ust let us know how the LGU of Pasig can help in catching and deporting these illegal workers and businessmen," he also said in remarks to the BI.

'POGOs at what cost?'

Sen. Risa Hontiveros in Senate probe held earlier this week disclosed by way of a whistleblower that Immigration personnel at airports would pocket bribes from Chinese nationals wanting easier entry onto Philippine soil. 

Immigration officer Allison "Alex" Chiong revealed that immigration officers engaged in the moneymaking scheme were providing "VIP services" to Chinese travelers for a fee, although officials who were also present at the hearing denied knowing about the scheme.  

“As a frontline immigration officer, I have personally witnessed various illegal transactions over the years involving the extortion of money in exchange for unimpeded passage through the Philippines whether leaving or entering our country,” Chiong said at the hearing. He has since been placed under witness protection for safety reasons. 

Earlier, Hontiveros at a separate Senate hearing uncovered a "menu" of sexual favors that included Filipino women who fell victim to sex trafficking that was prevalent in the country. 

RELATED: 5 Chinese held for POGO worker’s kidnap, torture

Sotto: One-strike policy in Pasig

"Sa mga sumusubok o susubukan palang gamitin ang pangalan ko para makipag negosasyon sa mga POGO, tigilan niyo na. Wala nang maniniwala sa inyo. At sa mga empleyado ng City Hall, one-strike policy tayo dito."

(To anyone trying or planning to try using my name to do business with POGOs, stop it right now. No one is going to believe you. And to the employees of City Hall, we have a one-strike policy here.) 

In January, five Chinese men were arrested for their role in kidnapping and subsequently torturing an employee of one such POGO.

This came months after a documented video of another kidnapping went viral on social media, an incident Presidential mouthpiece Salvador Panelo said was only an isolated incident. 

"Is it worth it?" Hontiveros asked of the benefits supposedly brought by the presence of POGOs. 

"At what cost ito? It shouldn't ever be at the cost of any Filipino woman."

'POGOs bring minimal benefits'

A think tank in January bared a number of misgivings with the burgeoning Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) industry in the country and called for the Duterte administration to instead pursue a genuinely independent foreign policy and economic reform. 

"It is turning out to be another service-oriented – and even foreign-catering – industry that brings temporary and minimal benefits to the country," Ibon Foundation said in a new report. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear he had no intention of restricting POGOs due to the benefits they afforded the country. 

However, Senate lawmakers since then have called for probes into these operators due to concerns over their links to many kidnapping and prostitution cases. 

According to the think tank, of the 87,054 POGO employees reported by PAGCOR, 71.5 percent are Chinese, while only a measly 16.6 percent are Filipinos. 

Another report published by property consulting firm Colliers International Philippines said that as of November 2019, POGOs occupied some one million square meters of office space in Metro Manila and were a major driver of the property sector in the Philippines. 

"Upholding an independent foreign policy is also important if we want to attain genuine economic development," Ibon said in the report. 

"The government can protect our local industries rather than open up the country to foreign companies."

PASIG CITY MAYOR VICO SOTTO

PHILIPPINE OFFSHORE GAMING OPERATORS

POGOS

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