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An anti-POGO bill was tabled in the Philippines Senate last month following reports of government infiltration by an alleged Chinese state asset.

Senator Win Gatchalian filed a bill that would outlaw Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) on 24 May.

POGOs are regulated gambling operators that broadcast unlicensed gaming to other Asian countries, principally China where online gambling is banned.

Gatchalian said: “The main goal is ultimately to outlaw and prohibit offshore gaming operations in the country.

“POGO operations have brought more harm than good, as the economic costs greatly outweigh the benefits derived from such operations.

“Beyond the financial impact, the rise in human trafficking and online scams linked to POGOs is a moral failing we must address.”

Gatchalian’s proposed ban came following a raid by police against a POGO that was allegedly being run as an online scam outfit.

The raid, which rescued over 700 enslaved individuals, led to questions for the town’s mayor Alice Guo (pictured), who was found to own a significant chunk of the POGO’s land.

Concerns around her personal and business background led to the initiation of a Senate probe into Guo.

Senator Risa Hontiveros asked Guo in a hearing whether she was a Chinese state asset. Guo denied this.

Rise in POGO-linked crime

POGOs, previously an underground industry, were legalised by President Rodrigo Duterte in September 2021.

However, despite regulation, many operations have faced accusations of online scams, human trafficking, and infiltration by organised crime.

Other incidents have included a May 2023 raid on a Colorful and Leap Group POGO hub in the Clark Freeport Zone that led to over a thousand POGO victims being freed.

Another involved the case of Xinchuang Network Technology in Las Pinas, where police rescued approximately 2,700 suspected victims of human trafficking.

A 2022 POGO cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Department of Finance found that the operations generated economic benefits between P133.7bn (€2.02bn) and P144.5bn.

However, the report argued POGOs were a net economic drain once enforcement and immigration costs were accounted for.

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