CHINA has no authority to force the Philippines to ban online gambling involving Chinese nationals as part of its effort to crack down on a practice that supposedly causes illegal outflow of money, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana.
“They can’t dictate on us,” the Philippine envoy said at a televised press briefing from Beijing on Thursday. “That’s a sovereign decision. That is where we stand.”
Presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo earlier said Chinese President Xi Jinping might raise the issue of Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) during his meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Beijing on Thursday.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang took note of the Philippine government’s move to suspend the acceptance of new applications for offshore gaming licenses pending a review of the sector.
“We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling,” Mr. Geng said, according to a transcript of his briefing on Aug. 20 posted on the Chinese Embassy website.
Mr. Sta. Romana said Mr. Duterte was prepared to explain the Philippines’ position on the matter.
“It will have an economic impact on us,” the envoy said. “So if we are to do it, we want a soft landing. We don’t want a drastic impact that will adversely affect our economy.”
Mr. Sta. Romana said the Philippines has been trying to regulate the online gambling industry.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue has said that as of early August, it had collected P200 million in taxes from offshore gaming companies. The bureau started collecting taxes from foreign workers employed by POGO in early July and ordered the companies to remit withholding taxes from the workers starting Aug. 10.
The government foregoes P2 billion in monthly revenue for every 100,000 unregistered POGO workers that fail to pay withholding tax on their earnings, according to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.
The Chinese embassy in Manila has expressed “grave concerns” about the plan of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to relocate the industry to “self-contained hubs.” It raised concerns that the move could violate the rights of Chinese workers in the Philippines.
China is mounting pressure on Southeast Asian nations as it tries to stamp out online gambling that supposedly causes hundreds of millions of yuan to illegally flow out of its economy. Online and phone betting has exploded in countries such as the Philippines in the past few years due to demand from gamblers in mainland China.
The Philippine gaming regulator has said it won’t halt existing online casinos but will stop accepting applications for new licenses at least until the end of the year to review concerns about the burgeoning sector.
More than 50 Philippine offshore gaming operators have received licenses since 2016, and the industry employs about 138,000 workers, most of them from China. Revenue from the offshore gaming industry is projected to reach P9 billion this year, according to the Philippine gaming regulator. — Arjay L. Balinbin