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Senators describe POGOs as national security threat and call for total ban

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has called for POGOs to be banned, following the example of Cambodia, and another senator claims the industry has given cover to thousands of covert People’s Liberation Army members.

Drilon told government regulators at a Senate hearing, “The ban in Cambodia, from available information, is that because the Chinese government objected to it. Yet we are here, we are acting like a province of China supposedly. So, if it's banned in China, then it should also be banned here.”

When a PAGCOR official noted that any POGO could be closed if so requested by Beijing, Drilon shot back, “Are we a province of China, where if China says it's allowed, then we allow it? And if it doesn't say it's prohibited, we allow it?”

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on national defense and security, separately claimed that a “fairly reliable” source had told him that 2,000 to 3,000 PLA personnel are now in the country on covert “immersion missions” of unknown purposes.

Additionally, Senator Richard Gordon claimed that Duterte was being soft on China, and this was triggering the problems of the POGO industry.

This, in turn, provoked a response from Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo: “Many do not know this president. The president is never soft on anything that relates to the national interest.”

Panelo added, “You must remember that the POGOs are giving us PHP17 billion in the last three years. Prior to this, we’re only receiving about PHP57 million on online gambling. In other words, it’s a huge source of income for this government, where it can be used for all kinds of projects.”

Panelo said that what was needed was to “review, evaluate, streamline, and improve” the POGO industry, not to ban it.

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