Immigration officials in the Philippines stated Tuesday that they would deport 40,000 Chinese workers as part of a nationwide crackdown on unauthorized internet gaming enterprises.
The crackdown follows claims of kidnapping, prostitution, and murder linked to the online gambling industry in the Philippines.
Since 2016, as former President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for stronger trade and business links with China, so-called Philippine offshore gaming operators, or POGOs, exploded.
However, the migration of tens of thousands of Chinese workers in the industry that caters to consumers in China, where gambling is prohibited, has caused intense conflict.
Many Filipinos allege that POGOs have dodged taxes and raised property values while failing to provide work prospects since not many locals speak Chinese.
Crispin Remulla, the Philippines Justice Secretary, recently directed police to go after 175 operators whose licenses were revoked but continued to operate illegally.
Following accusations of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution, the Philippines will begin deporting the estimated 40,000 Chinese employees employed by those enterprises next month, according to Justice Ministry spokesperson Dominic Clavano.
“It is truly our responsibility to society to ensure that these crimes aren’t committed against our people,” the spokesperson said.
“We felt it was necessary to send a message that this behaviour is not tolerable and unacceptable to the country.”
China, which has previously urged the Philippines to prohibit internet gambling, applauded the current action.
“Crimes induced and related to online gambling not only affect China’s interests and China-Philippines ties but also harm the Philippines’ interests,” the Chinese embassy in the Philippines stated.
According to the Philippines gaming regulation, approximately 34 POGOs are licensed to operate, and over 130 support services are registered.
According to recent statistics from the agency, it has cancelled the licenses of 40 POGOs and 174 service providers.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno stated earlier this month that online gaming operators should be prohibited.
According to Diokno, revenue in the Philippines from POGOs peaked in 2020 at 7.2 billion pesos ($122 million) but dropped dramatically to 3.9 billion pesos last year.
According to David Leechiu, CEO of Manila-based Leechiu Property Consultants, the expulsion of POGOs might cost the Philippine economy 200 billion pesos in rental revenue and salaries.