“Salot, hindi sulit.”

This was how Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante, Jr. categorized Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) following revelations by Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri that the country has been blacklisted by the People’s Republic of China, which was dissuading its citizens from visiting the Philippines because of the presence of POGOs in the country.

“Hindi na nga tayo nakikinabang dyan sa POGO, apektado pa turismo natin dahil sa negosyong ito.”

Abante on Tuesday said that this latest development “further strengthens the case for banning POGOs in the country.”

“Hindi na nga tayo nakikinabang dyan sa POGO, apektado pa turismo natin dahil sa negosyong ito,” lamented Abante, who has consistently campaigned for the prohibition of POGOs

The lawmaker and anti-gambling advocate pointed out that “prior to the pandemic, our country marked a record-high number of foreign tourist arrivals, and a huge percentage of that was from China, so this news could have a huge negative impact on our tourism promotion efforts.”

Data from the Department of Tourism show that in 2019, a record 8.26 million foreign tourists visited the country. Of this number, 1.74 million, or 21.1% came from China.

“Over the course of a decade, the number of foreign tourists that have visited the country has steadily increased. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled the upward trajectory of Philippine tourism, and this blacklisting move by the Chinese government could compromise our ability to regain our momentum,” warned Abante, who has filed a bill banning POGOs.

At the ongoing Senate hearings on POGOs, Zubiri said he met with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, who told senators that the Philippines had been blacklisted due to POGOs operating in the Philippines.

“The Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites,” said Zubiri, “because they do not know if the tourist will be joining POGO operations and they do not know if the Chinese nationals who go to the Philippines will be safe from illegal activities being done by the triad, by the syndicates operating POGO. They may also be kidnapped, mistaken as POGO operators.”



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