281 illegal POGO workers to be deported by Oct. 1

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — The government will start the deportation of nearly 300 illegal employees of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) as early as Oct. 1, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Friday.

"We are looking at October 1 or 2 as the start of deportation," Remulla told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Remulla is referring to an initial batch of at least 281 Chinese nationals under government custody, including those who are overstaying and those who are working in POGOs that have stopped paying their dues to the government.

He added that the Chinese government will be validating their identities as part of their protocol before taking them back.

"They are now in Pampanga, ang 281," Remulla said. "Although I think we have some more in custody."

The Justice chief recently met with Chinese Embassy Ad Interim Chargé d'Affaires Zhou Zhiyong to strengthen cooperation between the Philippines and China to crack down on POGO-related crimes.

Both parties agreed to take the appropriate actions for the deportation, but Remulla said there is a possibility that the Philippine government will have to shoulder the fare of the deportees if they do not have the means to do so.

The Philippine government intends to crack down on more illegal POGO workers, according to Remulla, who earlier pegged at around 40,000 of them still staying in the Philippines.

He said they will also look into reports on other POGO operations that are not part of the list of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

"We are conducting surveillance now," Remulla said. "We are asking police, immigration officials to conduct surveillance on the illegal POGOs, if they are still operating."

"The 40,000 here was arrived at because there are 200 illegal POGOs, approximately, on the list given by PAGCOR," he explained. "If each of them have 200 workers, to be viable, then that’s 40,000 people already."

Remulla earlier warned senators about a "humanitarian crisis" if the government will eventually have to take all the 40,000 into custody, given limited resources to accommodate all of them.

He said he is personally in favor of implementing reforms in the system, a continued regulation of the legal POGOs, and strengthening border controls to prevent the entry of undesirable aliens.

Sen. Koko Pimentel earlier said, however, that the Philippine government should just ban POGOs altogether.

He noted that the government should not have allowed illegal aliens to stay in the country in the first place since China has already made it hard for POGO workers here to return to their homeland.

Pimentel warned that even the existence of legal POGOs in the country has been used to camouflage the entry of undesirable aliens.

RELATED: Pimentel on POGO problem: Simplify policy, ban them for good