China continues to huff and puff over Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and the country is done being diplomatic about its objection to Chinese nationals participating in activities that take place in the sprawling POGO industry. Rather, China is moving with a tougher measure, putting the Philippines on a blacklist of overseas tourism destinations.
China Puts Philippines on Its Blacklist This has to do with the cases of kidnappings, worker exploitation, and overall illicit activities that have been linked to the POGO sector. PAGCOR, the national regulator in the Philippines, has said that none of the illegal gambling operations should be referred to as POGOs as they lacked the necessary licenses and were not qualifiable as such operators in the first place.
However, Senate President Migz Zubiri, a Philippine businessman, spoke with Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian who informed him of China’s decision to ban the Philippines as a tourist destination. Zubiri relayed the message to his fellow lawmakers. The “POGO” problem, Zubiri said, has forced China’s hand to ostracize the Philippines, a decision that is no doubt going to have a significant impact on its tourism industry.
Zubiri said that Chinese authorities have decided to act so strictly as they had received no assurance from the Philippine government as to whether Chinese nationals visit illegal operations and whether they are safe when they visit licensed POGO operators as well. This means that the country may soon be starved for one of its main tourist groups. Some 1.25 million tourists visited the Philippines from China in 2019.
The blacklist is not exactly new. It has been around for some time, with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism first revealing it back in August 2020. The blacklist features cities and countries and de facto bars Chinese nationals from visiting them or asking for an explanation if they had. Meanwhile, China has been particularly strict about letting Chinese nationals visit Macau for the purposes of gambling, instructing customs officers to discourage this behavior.
The Philippines Is Already Putting in the Work Many have been returned. The Philippines has been showing initiative in making sure that Chinese nationals and workers in the offshore industry come to no harm. The regulation of POGOs was step one, but the recent spate of crackdowns against non-licensed operations is another. Besides, the Philippines is repatriating 48,000 workers that worked in unlicensed POGOs. So far, there has been no exact response to what the country intends to do to assuage China and whether that is a priority.