The Philippine Senate Committee on Labour has begun an investigation into the number of Chinese nationals working illegally in the country’s online gambling industry.
Chairman of the committee Senator Joel Villanueva stated that the review, launched at the beginning of this month, will aim to draw governmental attention to illegal labour concerns.
“The review of our laws, the enforcement system and the coordination of agencies involved when it comes to regulating the influx of foreign workers in our country have become very urgent,” said Villanueva.
“It appears that despite our earlier calls on the concerned agencies, reports on increasing presence of illegal Chinese workers, especially in Metro Manila, have not been addressed.”
The announcement followed a recent raid on a Metro Manilla office building by the National Capital Region Police Office and the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group, which led to the arrest of 104 suspects, 93 of whom were unregistered Chinese nationals.
The online gambling company renting the complex in Pasig City, Finasia Tech Inc, was operating without a Pagcor-granted POGO licence.
“The latest sting operation only shows how bad the problem has become,” said Villanueva. “It is incumbent upon our government to exert every effort possible to prevent this activity from proliferating in our shores.”
“We strongly believe there is a dire need to strengthen legislation and enforcement to stop illegal online gambling and proliferation of illegal Chinese workers.”
The raid followed the recent formation of an interagency taskforce between the Department of Labour and Employment, and Pagcor, intended to actively inspect operators and assess their workforce’s eligibility to work in the Philippines.
However, the taskforce will purely inspect POGO-licence holders, and only those in Manila and special economic zones of Clark Freeport and Subic Bay.
The call for Chinese nationals to work in the Philippines has grown significantly over the past year, as the country becomes the primary base for Asia-facing online operators looking to target the Chinese market.
The high demand for Mandarin-speaking support staff in the rapidly expanding industry, which accounted for 25 percent of all office property rentals in Metro Manila for the first three quarters of 2018, has meant an equivalent rise in illegal immigration.
“These issues along with other current problems affecting our workers will be the subject of our Committee on Labor inquiry,” said Villanueva. “Our country’s labor laws and immigration rules must be clear and strictly enforced.”