ABOUT 600 allegedly illegal Chinese workers have been arrested in the Philippines in less than a week after Beijing’s call for a crackdown on online gambling.

About 324 undocumented Chinese nationals will be deported after being apprehended on Monday in the western Palawan province for alleged cybercrimes, the Iimmigration bureau said in a statement on Tuesday.

The agency earlier said it arrested 277 Chinese nationals on Wednesday for allegedly conducting illegal online operations in Pasig City.

Those arrested were wanted for fraud and investment scams in China, the Immigration bureau said, citing information from Chinese authorities.

Last month, China urged the Philippines to crack down on online casino operations catering mostly to Chinese nationals.

Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte has said he would not ban the billion-peso industry despite Beijing’s opposition because it benefits the Southeast Asian nation.

Albay Rep. Joey S. Salceda on Wednesday said the ways and means committee, which he heads, will hold hearings on the risks of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and decide whether they should stay in the country.

The congressman was asked to comment on China’s request for the Philippines to ban online casino operations in the country.

He noted that these are legal under the franchise of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

The Finance department has threatened to shut down operators found evading withholding income taxes from their workers.

The agency has issued 130 letter-notices to operators with P21.62 billion in tax liabilities, it said.

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.

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, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago L. Sta. Romana said earlier — with Bloomberg