President Rodrigo Duterte believes that China can spy on the government even from afar because of technology, Malacañang said Monday, so having foreign nationals located near military bases should not be a cause of concern.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo shared the President’s view after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that online gaming operations with Chinese workers should be relocated to areas far from military camps.
“The President said you don’t even have to be near because even if you are 1,000 miles away, they can spy on us. They’re [using] high-tech and they have several satellites,” Panelo said.
The Chief Executive is also confident that the government has the capability to know what the foreigners are doing, his spokesman added.
“Our capability in terms of intelligence and information is okay so he’s not worrying,” Panelo said, quoting President Duterte.
Lorenzana’s concern stem from the fact that some Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) centers are located in Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City and Eastwood
, which are less than a 20-minute drive from the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo and Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.
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The other POGO hubs are located in Resorts World in Pasay City near the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Army headquarters. Other POGO hubs are on Macapagal Avenue near the Philippine Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard.
A POGO hub is also being eyed at a 36-hectare former resort in Kawit, Cavite just a few kilometers from the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing and Philippine Naval Base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, a former US base in Cavite province.
Duterte also believes it is only natural for countries to spy on each other, Panelo said.
“That’s I think that’s SOP for all countries,” he added.
The government considers the online gaming hubs as part of a revenue-generating industry for the country, Panelo said.
“That’s very important, we need money, revenue, that’s [a] legitimate revenue-making project. We are not worried about the security [risk] that they are posing to us,” he said.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has suspended accepting applications for POGO until all concerns “have been addressed.”
“We will no longer, at this time, accept any more applications until we have reviewed and comfortably addressed all of the concerns of everybody,” Pagcor chairman and CEO Andrea D. Domingo said in a press conference Monday.
She said Pagcor stopped accepting POGO application three weeks ago, saying the concerns of authorities should be taken into consideration.
Currently, there are 58 licensed POGO operators, with three others awaiting the issuance of licenses to operate.
Pagcor, Domingo said, will also assess the societal impact of POGO operations in the country.
In related developments:
• Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon shared Lorenzana’s concerns over the growing presence of Chinese-dominated POGOs, saying their proximity to military camps spells danger. He also described the Chinese embassy’s statement that overseas Filipino workers in China may also be suspected of spying as “absurd and beyond the realm of possibility.”
• The Palace rebuked Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua for saying that Filipinos working in China could be accused of spying after Lorenzana raised security concerns about Chinese working in POGOs. “The Office of the President shares the sentiment of Secretary Lorenzana and Secretary [Ernesto] Pernia when they said that the [Filipino workers] went to China for the purpose of work,” Panelo said.
• Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday slammed the Chinese government, saying Filipinos working in China are not spies. “They have no history of espionage. Filipinos abroad are valued both for their skill and unique blend of hard work and care,” she said.
Based on records from the Department of Foreign Affairs, there were about 12,000 Filipinos working in China. Most of them live in cities such as Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Xiamen.
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