Ambassador Sta. Romana: China can't dictate closure of online gambling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — China may want the Philippines to ban online gambling, but the Philippine government would still have the final say, said the Philippine envoy to China.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said that the Philippines will explain to China that online gambling is legal in the country.

"They can't dictate on us. Those are sovereign decisions. That is where we stand," Sta. Romana said in a press briefing in Beijing, Thursday.

The Chinese government last week asked the Philippines to ban all online gambling, following concerns on Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) that employ a lot of Chinese nationals.

Gambling is illegal in China. Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo on Monday said that the Chinese government has raised concerns over POGOs targetting Chinese nationals and money laundering.

READ: Xi, not Duterte, to raise concerns over Chinese POGO workers during bilateral meeting – Panelo

In his press briefing, Sta. Romana said that it is up to President Rodrigo Duterte to decide whether or not to ban online gambling in the Philippines.

He added that if the President decides to do so, the ban should be implemented slowly as to prevent adverse economic impact.

"It will have an economic impact on us, so if we were to do it we want a soft landing. We don't want a drastic impact that would adversely affect the economy," Sta. Romana said.

He cited the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporations decision to stop accepting POGO license applications, and its attempt to make create POGO hubs.

"All of these are meant to keep things within bounds," Sta. Romana said.

President Rodrigo Duterte is currently in Beijing, along with key members of his administration, for bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is set to return on September 1.