MANILA – Malacañang is leaving it to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to decide on calls for the deportation of 44 Chinese nationals who were arrested for allegedly conducting Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) in Parañaque City.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said POGOs are prohibited to operate under the guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
In a virtual presser, Roque said they “leave the matter” to the BI.
Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez earlier called for the Chinese nationals’ deportation saying they “tarnished the image of the city”.
The BI is coordinating with police to file deportation charges against the 44 Chinese nationals.
On Friday, police arrested 44 Chinese nationals and nine Filipinos for allegedly conducting POGOs despite the ECQ imposed in Luzon and some parts of Visayas and Mindanao to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
BI Spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the bureau will investigate similar establishments that may be violating quarantine guidelines.
On April 23, Roque said Duterte is studying the proposal of Finance Secretary Dominguez III to allow the reopening of POGOs amid Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
Roque said although Duterte has yet to decide on Dominguez’s proposal, his decision will be based on the need to obtain revenue to boost the government’s fight against the Covid-19 health crisis.
“Kung ang desisyon po ay pabuksan ‘yan, ang tanging basehan lang po ay simple: Kinakailangan natin ng pondo para magastos sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan (If the decision is to have them reopened, the main basis is simple: We need funds to spend for the needs of our citizens),” he said.
Citing government data, Roque said PHP352.7 billion out of the PHP397 billion available funds have been spent already for Covid-19 response.
“Patuloy pa rin pong nangangailangan ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi naman po pupuwede mag magic ang Presidente at lalabas ay pera para gastusin (Our citizens still have needs. The President just can’t use magic to acquire money for expenses),” he said.
Roque also denied that there were powerful government officials allegedly allowing POGOs to continue the operation.
“Wala pong mga protektor diyan dahil lahat ng POGOs ay nasa ilalim ng Pagcor. Tanging Pagcor lang po ang pupuwede magbigay ng awtoridad sa kanila mag-operate (POGOs do not have any protectors because they are under the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. Only PAGCOR can give them authority to operate),” he said.
There are currently 60 licensed POGOs in the Philippines.
The national government is targeting to collect PHP2 billion in taxes per month from POGOs. (PNA)