China on Thursday expressed “grave concern” over a proposal to transfer Chinese working in offshore gaming operators to self-contained communities or hubs, saying this might infringe on their basic legal rights.
In a statement, China urged the Philippine government to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines.
Earlier, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. said the proposal to confine the Chinese workers to designated areas was intended to limit their interactions with locals amid complaints of their unruly behavior.
But the embassy said it has always reminded Chinese citizens overseas to abide by local laws and regulations and not to work illegally in foreign countries.
It said a large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations and casinos.
“In many cases, the employers of Philippine casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities do not apply necessary legal work permits for their Chinese employees. Some Chinese citizens are even lured into and cheated to work illegally with only tourist visas,” the embassy said.
The statement also emphasized that any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online gambling, gambling overseas, opening and operating casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal.
“Many of the Chinese citizens working illegally in Philippine casinos or POGOs and other forms of gambling entities are subjected to what media described as ‘modern slavery’ due to severe limitation of their personal freedom,” the embassy said.
“Their passports are taken away or confiscated by the Philippine employers. They are confined to live and work in certain designated places and some of them have been subjected to extortion, physical abuse, and torture as well as other ill-treatments,” it added.
The embassy also said there were dozens of kidnappings and torture cases of Chinese citizens who gamble or work illegally in gambling entities in the Philippines.
“Some Chinese citizens were physically tortured, injured or even murdered,” it said.
The embassy also expressed alarm that offshore gambling has resulted in cross-border crimes, such as money laundering, which undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security.
According to the embassy, offshore gaming for Chinese has also contributed to China’s increasing social problems and crime rate.
“The Chinese side hopes and urges relevant departments of the Philippine government to pay more attention to China’s position and concerns and take concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish the Philippine casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities for their illegal employment of Chinese citizens and crack down related crimes that hurt the Chinese citizens,” the statement said.
The Chinese government vowed that it would carry out more operations to prevent and combat cross-border gambling as it sought cooperation with Philippine law enforcement agencies to curb such illegal activities.
It warned Chinese companies or individuals in the Philippines to “immediately stop relevant illegal activities, otherwise, they will be punished in accordance with Chinese law.”
Malacañang on Thursday urged exploited Chinese workers to file charges against their employers in the wake of China’s statement.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government will not allow any abuse of foreign visitors and vowed that laws will be observed.
“We will not allow any violation of their rights as visitors or working nationals in this country. We certainly have the Constitution to guide government authorities in dealing with them,” he said.
Earlier, the Chinese embassy in Manila said some workers were abused and subjected to “modern slavery” due to severe limitation of their personal freedom.
“They are confined to live and work in certain designated places and some of them have been subjected to extortion, physical abuse, and torture as well as other ill-treatment,” the statement read.
The embassy in Manila also alleged that Chinese workers’ passports were taken away by employers.
“At the same time, dozens of kidnappings and tortured cases of Chinese citizens who gamble or work illegally in gambling entities in the Philippines have taken place. Some Chinese citizens were physically tortured, injured or even murdered,” the embassy said.
Panelo said the government could not act without the filing of a formal complaint.
The government on Thursday said it would continue to issue tax identification numbers of TINS to foreign workers despite the Chinese statement.
In a statement to reporters, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said he has not yet seen the statement from the Chinese embassy but said the economic team would issue a statement once they have studied the Chinese statement.
“We will not suspend the issuance of TINs to foreign workers,” Dominguez said.
“As for the BIR, we are simply implementing the Tax Code, and requiring those earning Philippine-sourced income to pay income tax,” Dominguez added.
Earlier, Pagcor chairman Andrea Domingo said the hubs would have all the basic needs of foreign POGO employees, such as office and residential spaces, food establishments, wellness and recreational activities, and service shops.
She said the hubs were in fact being established for the protection of foreign workers.”They are no longer exposed to crimes being committed against them on streets, they are assured of good working
conditions and decent living quarters, and will be given their proper visas as there will also be other relevant government agencies setting up offices at the hubs,” she said.
Earlier, the Labor department said foreign nationals working for POGOs numbered about 138,000.
In their report to Dominguez during a meeting held recently, DOLE and the Bureau of Immigration came up with a reconciled list of 138,001 workers, of which 54,241 were issued alien employment permits and another 83,760, who were granted special working permits.
Dominguez said assuming that each foreign national was earning an average of $1,500 a month and taxed at 25 percent of his or her gross income, he came up with a rough calculation of P32 billion a year in income taxes to be collected from these workers.
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