After China trip, Palace says Duterte to study implications of banning online gambling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — President Rodrigo Duterte is considering China's "implied request" for the Philippine government to impose a ban on offshore gaming operations, a booming industry patronized mostly by Chinese gamblers.

Malacañang on Friday said Chinese President Xi Jinping again praised the Philippines' decision to stop accepting new license applications for Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) during the bilateral meeting in Beijing Thursday.

"But [Xi] said he will appreciate more if POGO will be eliminated or stopped," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing.

He said Duterte did not have the chance to respond to Xi, but stressed that the Philippine President will "most likely" study the implications of a total ban of online gambling.

"Ang pag-aaralan doon ano bang mawawala sa atin kung itigil mo yung online gaming," Panelo said.

[Translation: What should be studied there is what the Philippines could lose if online gaming is stopped.]

The Bureau of Internal Revenue said it has collected ₱186 million in withholding taxes from POGOs since June, and is set to get ₱170 million more this month.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana on Thursday stressed that China "can't dictate on us," noting that gambling may be illegal in China, but Philippine law allows online gambling. He said it is a Philippines "sovereign decision" whether to stop it.

China has said that its citizens are being illegally recruited in the country to serve in gambling operations that are also targeted for Chinese nationals.

Philippine lawmakers have also voiced concerns the employment of Chinese in the gaming industry is denying job opportunities for Filipinos, while the Department of Finance said POGOs are not remitting about ₱2 billion in monthly taxes. More than three million Chinese nationals have entered the country since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016 and fostered friendly ties with Beijing.

Officials have flagged the influx of Chinese workers, noting that thousands of them may have been working in the country illegally or without proper documentation, particularly in the POGO industry.