PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has brushed aside the presence of Chinese-dominated Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogo) establishments near key military installations despite fears that the online gaming facilities may be used for surveillance, Malacañang said Monday, August 19.
Quoting Duterte, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said China does not need to be near a military base because it can spy on the Philippines even from afar.
"The President said that with respect to the proximity, the President said any foreign national working here, group, need not be near the military camps, in order to get intelligence,'' Panelo said.
Panelo, quoting Duterte further, said: "Because considering the high [technology], even if you're 1,000 miles away, they can spy on us if they want."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the Pogo establishments pose a national security threat as he raised the possibility that the Chinese nationals running and working in Pogo establishments could be spies.
On August 16, Lorenzana noted that are are Pogo centers in Araneta Center-Cubao, Eastwood and Ortigas Center, which are near the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo as well as the police headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The Defense chief also noted that the Pogo facility at the Resorts World in Pasay City is near Villamor Air Base while the one at Island Cove in Cavite is near Sangley Point.
Panelo agreed that Lorenzana's concern was "legitimate."
But he assured that Manila also has the capability to gather intelligence information about China's activities.
He said Duterte was not worried that Pogo outlets might be used for China's espionage as the Philippines can do the same to Beijing.
"The President said the countries do spy on each other. That's I think SOP (standard operating procedure) for all countries," Panelo said l.
"According to him (Duterte), okay ang ating capability sa intelligence information. Tayo. Kaya hindi siya nagwo-worry doon (our capability to intelligence information is okay. So he's not worried). He is not worried because we have the intelligence capability of knowing what they are doing. We have that capability nga, sabi ni Presidente (the President said)," he added.
In response to Lorenzana's concern with regard to Chinese workers in the Philippines, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said China could also suspect overseas Filipino workers (OFW) of being engaged in surveillance activities.
But Panelo stressed that OFWs are in Beijing simply to work.
"The OFW went to China for the purpose of work. Moreover, there is no place [in Beijing] where they converge to work," he said.
Following controversies hounding Pogo establishments, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) announced Monday that it has stopped accepting new license applications for offshore games operations.
Panelo said the Palace would let Pagcor act alone to resolve issues concerning the Pogo operations.
"Until the President reverses the stand of Pagcor, that remains to be the policy because the President always respects heads of departments and offices to do their duty and undertaking," he said.
Panelo said the issue on Pogo firms may be discussed during the next Cabinet meeting.
Asked if the Palace would study the implications of the operations of offshore games in the country, he said: "Eh nasa security forces na natin 'yun (It's up to our security forces). Kung ano ang rekomendasyon ng national security advisers, secretary of National Defense (Whatever the recommendation of our national security advisers and National Defense Secretary is), that will be considered by the President." (SunStar Philippines)