THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said the number of foreign work permits it issued this year is nearly five times the 2018 total, with the influx of workers for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) accounting for much of the growth.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in his year-end speech that more than 100,000 Alien Employment Permits (AEPs) were issued in 2019, against 21,320 a year earlier.

“We have also issued 111,583 Alien Employment Permits to foreign nationals working in the Philippines. Of this figure, 75.07% or 83,764 AEPs were issued to POGO-related establishments nationwide,” he said.

Acting Labor Assistant Secretary and Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique R. Tutay said that most of these workers in the POGO industry are foreign based on data from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

“As of data from Dec. 10, there were about 118,239 workers in POGO-related establishments and 82% or 97,283 were foreign workers while the remaining 17.7% or 20,956 are Filipino workers,” she said.

DoLE said the growth was also due to improved enforcement of permit rules on foreign nationals seeking employment. In May, it released Joint Guidelines No. 01 or the “Rules and Procedures Governing Foreign Nationals Intending to Work in the Philippines” in partnership with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Department of Justice (DoJ), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Senator Joel J. Villanueva announced that he is planning to investigate the industry, alleging that POGOs attract illegal foreign workers and serve as fronts for other activities. Last week, 342 illegal Chinese aliens were arrested in Quezon City while working at a POGO that did not have an operating license and were suspected of committing cybercrimes. — Gillian M. Cortez