China Denies That Philippines Is on a ‘Blacklist’ Because of POGOs

  • Philippines Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri previously said China issued a travel ban
  • The Chinese Embassy says that no such discussion occurred
  • Zubiri maintains that any miscommunication was fault of the Chinese embassy
  • China is asking that the Philippines assert authority over offshore operators
Philippines pinned on a map
China has denied that the Philippines has been put on any sort of tourism “blacklist.” [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Who said what?

The Chinese embassy has responded to comments made by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri that China had forbidden travel to its neighboring nation over concerns of POGOs.

Zubiri said that China was readying a ban in response to the growth of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), who target Chinese citizens. Meanwhile, gambling is illegal in all mainland China.

The Chinese embassy in the Philippines denied Zubiri’s claims

In a conflicting view of POGO discussions, the Chinese embassy in the Philippines denied Zubiri’s claims in a statement released this week.

Contrasting messages

That statement confirmed that Zubiri met with Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, as well as other Chinese officials, to discuss the issue of POGOs and travel. China requested more intervention from the Filipino government to help protect Chinese citizens.

Criminal liability can be pursued in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Law of China.”

“According to Chinese law and regulations, Chinese citizens gambling overseas, opening casinos to attract Chinese citizens as primary customers constitute gambling crimes,” said the statement. “Criminal liability can be pursued in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Law of China. Chinese government and law enforcement have been taking tough measures to combat all forms of gambling.”

The embassy also noted that tourism is a huge economic factor in the relationship between both countries. Chinese travelers used to make up a huge percentage of visitors, although those numbers have fallen drastically since the start of the worldwide pandemic.

The Chinese ambassador did not issue a diplomatic stance against the Philippines following Zubiri’s assertion—part of the reason for that could be that China wants to remain on good terms with the Philippines as it continues to express interest in drilling for oil in the West Philippine Sea. China has attempted to claim ownership of the area but has been categorically denied every time.

Despite Wednesday’s meeting, however, Zubiri has said that his comments were a mirror reflection of what the Chinese ambassador said previously and that there was no misinterpretation.

“We stand by our statement,” said Zubiri. “We have a transcript of what has transpired [during our meeting]. We’re not dreaming. What I said was the truth. We have many witnesses who heard our conversation.”

Philippines, China plans to deal with POGOs

Philippines Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also present at the first meeting with the Chinese ambassador, said that Zubiri mentioned a “blacklist” before that word had been put on the table. The Senate President claims that the word “blacklist” was spoken and that the Chinese ambassador is to blame for any miscommunication.

In addition, Zubiri is upset by the future harm that is to come from the Philippines having been put on blacklisted tourist sites because of POGOs. 

the Philippines still has work to do with its regulated gambling industry

While the war of words wages on, the Philippines still has work to do with its regulated gambling industry. The number of operators has decreased significantly over just the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, the country is also attempting to deport 40,000 Chinese workers illegally targeting mainland Chinese citizens via POGOs by the end of the year. 

According to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), gambling generated 32.63 billion Philippine pesos ($552.6m) in fiscal year 2021. Even with all of the ongoing problems, the wagering community is responsible for a sizable chunk of the country’s income.