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Opinion

POGOs bring Filipino jobs, new money from China

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

In coddling Chinese gangsters in Manila, officials give Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators a bad name. An outcry has sparked to ban POGOs wholesale, threatening 23,000 high-paying Filipino jobs.

Sapol-dwIZ interviewed three workers Saturday. With 2.86 million jobless and 25 million underpaid, they doubt if government can place them in other gainful employment:

• Nurse Nelia Leonardo, 43, mastered Mandarin working 16 years in Taiwan. Returning in 2019, the single parent quickly was hired. Her nine-to-five shift consists of translating POGO management instructions to legitimate Chinese staff. Also assignments like accompanying them to medical check-ups, or serving as go-between with Filipino condo-landlords. Fun and fulfilling, she said, as Chinese co-workers are polite and friendly.

Monthly pay: P35,000, plus P5,000 allowance. Free condo accommodation where her elder daughter, fresh out of college, lives too. The younger can stay with them, if not for face-to-face classes in the province. Employer pays her water, electricity, WiFi and condo dues. Free shuttle to and from office, with all-day buffet at the pantry. “I shudder at the thought of losing all this if they close us down.”

• Driver Nasrudin Abdullah, 43, worked eight years in Saudi Arabia. The father of ten shuttles POGO employees to and from work, and to dinner-entertainment after hours. Hired in 2018, he can stay in the free staff condo, but prefers renting an apartment with family. A shop cleans and maintains the company van. With work light, he spends waiting time online with children and friends.

His P25,000 monthly and P5,000 allowance sends two eldest to college. Free meals and snacks. The Chinese staff gives him take-home dinners. “I won’t make this much abroad.”

• Computer grad Jackielyn Adap, 29, is an encoder for nearly two years. She chose her 12-hour shift inputting payouts to China mainland bettors. That allows her four straight days-off a month with husband and child in Cavite, where they own a diner.

Starting pay in February 2021 was P30,000, free condo, laundry, shuttle and meals. She sends a sibling to college, repays a new home loan and has remodeled the old house after a typhoon. “Please keep our jobs.”

POGO workers received double for pandemic hazards in 2020-2021.

Crimes by Chinese are no reason to shut POGOs. Regulators licensed 35, plus 125 support firms ranging from software developers to security men, makeup artists and caterers. The 23,000 Filipinos are with 16 licensees and 68 affliates under the Association of Service Providers and POGOs.

POGOs cater to Chinese mainlanders, unlike e-sabong that entices even minors. Regulators take P6.1 billion a year in license fees and two-percent revenue shares. BIR collects another P7.2 billion as five-percent franchise tax. Plus, P500 million from work permits and P552 million immigration fees. Annual POGO revenues is hundred-billions – new money from China that steals Philippine fish and reefs.

One hundred-seventy-five unlicensed, thus illegal, copycats caused the recent spate of kidnappings, killings, maulings, extortions and human trafficking. Those are police matters.

In the 1980s-1990s, Yakuza gangsters mixed with swarms of Japanese tourists and investors. Public outcry against a crime spike shamed the police into action. In 2000s-2010s Korean and Taiwanese criminals mingled with travelers and businessmen. Envoys appealed to Filipino victims to report. The Philippines never shut its borders to those nationals, but only jailed or deported the thugs.

Same should be done with Chinese illegals. Forty thousand sneaked in since 2017 via the “pastillas racket”. Immigration men received P10,000 rolled in white paper per alien. Up to P1-million bribes for mob bosses, who even had police escorts. In July 2021 president Rody Duterte declared sacking 43 immigration crooks. But the justice department clarified that they were merely suspended for six months while cases pended. Only in June 2022 were they removed.

Today the department hesitates to deport the 40,000 illegals, claiming that a “humanitarian crisis” would ensue. Allegedly, Chinese authorities will execute or imprison them en masse. Supposedly better is to cancel visas and let them exit voluntarily. But what’s the guarantee that the aliens won’t embed themselves in Filipino communities, like 3,000 Chinese spies earlier exposed by senator Panfilo Lacson? Speaking of which, have those spies been outed and stockaded?

True to China’s new undiplomatic bullying style, its ambassador threatens to blacklist the Philippines for tourism for maintaining POGOs. Communist authoritarians forbid gambling in the mainland, except Macau. Yet China tourism is down due to its zero-Covid policy that bans overseas travel. The Philippines has lost 90 percent of Chinese tourists since 2020 like purportedly blacklisted Cambodia and Vietnam for hosting offshore gambling, Rep. Joey Salceda reports.

The crime wave sprang from Chinese colorums stealing each other’s customer databases and pirating Chinese employees. The police swiftly quelled it when Congress began investigating. It had to be roused from sleeping on the job like before.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc

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