POGOs for espionage? China can spy on Philippines even from afar, says Duterte

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2019 09:20 AM | Updated as of Aug 19 2019 12:48 PM

MANILA - China can spy on the Philippines even from afar, President Rodrigo Duterte was quoted as saying by his spokesperson on Monday, after his defense minister warned that gambling hubs run by the Chinese might be used for espionage. 

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) located near major military bases might "shift their activities to spying", Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier warned. 

"The President and I were talking about it yesterday and he was saying that, 'You know, you don't even have to be near any military camp if you want to gather intelligence,'" said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. 

"He said that considering the high tech now, even if they are far away from China, if they want to spy on us, they can. In fact, all countries, as he correctly said, are spying on each other. Natural lang iyun e (it's only natural)," he added. 

Duterte also believes that the Philippines has enough instruments to gather information on China, too, said Panelo. 

"Kaya naman natin, sabi ni Presidente, na malaman kung anong gusto nilang gawin sa atin," he told ANC.

(We can, the President said, find out what they want to do to us.) 

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Some of the POGO centers in the capital are located at Araneta Center in Cubao and Eastwood, which are both near Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

The Resorts World Manila in Pasay, a popular casino in Metro Manila, is close to Villamor Airbase, the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force. 

Another POGO center is located at Island Cove in Cavite, which is across the naval base of Sangley Point. 
 
Whether or not POGO facilities should be transferred to other locations is up to security officials and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, said Panelo. 

NEED FOR REVENUE 

There are roughly 138,000 Chinese workers in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO), according to the initial estimate of an inter-agency task force reviewing the Internet-based business. 

Beijing earlier urged Manila to crack down on casinos and offshore gaming firms that illegally employ its nationals. 

Chinese law bans its citizens from engaging in "any form of gambling" including online and those that are based overseas but cater to Chinese nationals, China's embassy in Manila said. 

Gambling is not banned in the Philippines, noted Panelo. 

"We need money, revenue. That's (POGO) legitimate revenue-making project," he said.