Biz chambers alarmed over human trafficking, scams

ANGELES CITY – The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry – North Luzon (PCCI-NL) and the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham) have expressed their apprehension over criminal activities and other illegal operations in the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga.

PCCI North Luzon area vice president Maria Amalia Tiglao-Cayanan said the unlawful acts associated with the POGOs including the rising proliferation of various scams, human trafficking, illegal detention, and extortion perpetrated by Chinese POGO operators and the subsequent investigation and preventive suspension of Bamban Mayor Alice Guo have brought broader issues to the communities.

PamCham director Rene Romero, on June 12, said the POGOs’ contribution to the local economy, which often operates in gray areas, has been insignificant compared to legitimate businesses. The tax contributions are also “negligible relative to the scale of their operations and resources.”

“The recent discovery of (the) POGO in Porac, Pampanga, purported to be larger and more expansive
than the previously identified operation in Bamban, raises grave concerns for the local business community. The negative impacts of such operations far outweigh any minimal economic contributions they may offer,” Romero said.

We express grave concern in regard to the rising proliferation of various scams and criminal activities perpetrated by Chinese POGO operators. The situation in Bamban is a stark reminder of the broader issues that POGOs bring to our communities. The involvement of local officials, law enforcements and government regulatory bodies in these activities further complicates the matter and underscores the need for decisive action,” Cayanan said in a statement on June 5.

Romero said the effects of POGOs have tarnished the region’s reputation as a safe and viable destination for business and investments through POGOs’ criminal activities including money laundering which can also deter potential investors especially in the province.

Security concerns on businesses, apart from negative publicity, also undermine trust in local governance and law enforcement, said Romero. However, sustainable and legitimate business opportunities promotion must continue for ensuring long-term stability and economic growth.

Cayanan also pointed out the importance of discerning the difference between the criminal elements among Chinese POGO operators and law-abiding Filipino-Chinese businessmen who have significantly contributed to nation-building.

The local business leaders urged the national government to take immediate and decisive actions to enforce total ban on POGOs.

In expressing their support, PCCI-NL and PamCham stressed to strengthen law enforcement as well as investigate and hold accountable any local and other officials involved in criminal activities linked to POGOs to protect the integrity of local governance in the country.

Lapid supports investigation on POGOs

Senator Lito Lapid, Committee chair on Games, Amusement, and Sports, in a statement released on June 14, also expressed his support in conducting a thorough investigation behind the POGO operations recently raided by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).
“Nararapat na magsagawa ng masusing imbestigasyon upang malaman kung sino ang mga taong tunay na nagmamay-ari ng mga lupa at mga building na ginagamit sa POGO at ang kompanyang nagpapatakbo dito nang sa ganun malaman ang buong katotohanan kung sino talaga ang nasa likod ng mga POGO,” Lapid said.
“Ang mga karumal-dumal na krimen na nadiskubre sa POGO raid sa Bamban, Tarlac at Pampanga ay hindi lamang nararapat na kondenahin kundi kailangan din ng mabilis na aksyon mula sa pamahalaan upang mapanagot ang mga nasa likuran ng mga gawaing kriminal, kaakibat rin ang pagbabalangkas ng mga bagong polisiya laban sa illegal na POGOs at iba pang kahalintulad na operasyon sa bansa,” Lapid added.

A team led by PAOCC combed through two POGOs: Zun Yuan Technology Incorporated in Bamban and Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Incorporated in Porac in March and June, respectively, through separate search warrants.
The two search operations resulted in the rescue of several tortured victims of foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, who were also illegally detained. Meanwhile, other foreign nationals who were caught in the raid and search operations also underwent inquest proceedings. They are also set to be deported to their country of origin and blacklisted from entering the Philippines.

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