China starts crackdown on POGO workers

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CNN Philippines (February 25) – China said it started laying the groundwork to stop cybercrimes committed by Chinese nationals outside of China, including the Philippines.

“To crack down on cross-border telecom fraud, [China's] Ministry of Public Security has obtained a list of Chinese nationals suspected of committing long-term telecom fraud crimes abroad, who are classified as the persons prohibited from exiting China,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement on Sunday. 

The reaction stemmed from a report that thousands of Chinese nationals illegally working for Philippines’ offshore gaming operators or POGO may have their passports revoked for supposedly being involved in illegal activities.

China then expressed its willingness to work with the Philippines in its fight against POGO amid issues on lost job opportunities for Filipinos, tax evasion and even national security. The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier revealed over ₱27 billion worth of tax liabilities remain uncollected from the POGO sector.

RELATED: Defense chief fears POGOs may shift operations to spying

The embassy said the close coordination is aimed at protecting “the legitimate rights and interests of nationals of the two countries, and to promote the China-Philippines friendship and cooperation.”

A whistleblower revealed in a Senate probe last week a scheme that allowed Chinese nationals, mostly POGO workers, to enter the country with ease by paying immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport a minimum of ₱10,000 in grease money.

READ: Witness: 90% of Immigration Bureau personnel involved in 'pastillas' scheme

This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to relieve 19 Immigration employees from their duty pending investigation.

PAGCOR stopped accepting new applications for POGO licenses in August last year.