'Baka military?' Residents troubled by POGO workers moving into Parañaque subdivision

MANILA, Philippines – Residents of an upscale subdivision in Parañaque City said they are troubled by the growing number of Chinese workers moving into their neighborhood and engaging in activities they found suspicious, according to a video presented by Senator Richard Gordon during an investigation of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) on Thursday, March 5.

Among several things, residents are worried about the recent construction of a firing range near the Multinational Village’s recreational center, causing them to wonder whether the droves of able-bodied Chinese men and women now living among them could be more than just online gambling dealers.

“The point is, baril yan eh (those are guns). So it has no place in a quiet subdivision…. So parang nakakatakot ‘yan ‘di ba (That’s rather scary, isn’t it)? Is this connected to the influx of the Chinese mainlanders?” said one of the residents whose face was concealed, presumably to protect their identity.

The video however indicated their names, but we will not state them here as a precaution.

Sabi nila, baka mga ano ito, mga military (They say these might be from their military),” another resident said.

The video showed 2-story houses being built into condominiums to accommodate more POGO workers, in violation of the subdivision’s rules. Residents worry that their construction may be unsound.

Some houses built for single families have as many as 40 POGO workers living in them.

Fleets of buses and vans convey the workers between their residences and workplaces, causing heavy traffic within and around the subdivision.

The amount of waste generated by the POGO “tenements” is too much for the regular collection cycle, leaving reeking garbage piles on street corners.

One resident recounted a raid on one of the POGO houses, saying witnesses saw naked men and women rushing and jumping out of its windows, raising suspicions that  the house was being used as a brothel.

'Suffocated'

The disruption has residents feeling “suffocated,” Gordon said, adding that POGO workers living in the subdivision now comprised 70% of its population.

Gordon, who leads the Senate’s anti-corruption blue ribbon committee, mentioned Senator Panfilo Lacson’s suspicion, based on an unconfirmed intelligence report, that some 2,000 to 3,000 members of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are in the Philippines for an “immersion.”

Gordon also noted an instance in which police found PLA identification cards on two Chinese suspects in the killing of another Chinese worker in Makati City last week.

“China has one of the largest, if not the largest, intelligence agencies in the world,” Gordon said during the Senate hearing of allegations of cash smuggling connected to POGOs.

The mix of billions of dollars coming into the Philippines unchecked and the possibility of Chinese espionage and military presence is worrisome, Gordon said.

The senator recalled how many agents of the Japanese Imperial Army’s Kempeitai or military police had moved in incognito ahead of World War II, posing as merchants and businessmen before launching an invasion.

Philippine defense officials had tagged POGOs themselves, especially those with hubs near military bases, as potential security threats. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana worried that the large number of POGO workers could easily be tapped by the Chinese government for espionage.

Besides having its sights on the West Philippine Sea, China has growing interests in the Philippines as the Duterte administration broadens political and economic ties with Beijing.

Chinese entities have significant stakes in the Philippines’ national power grid and in an emerging telco player that is poised to set up communication equipment inside military bases. China is also set to finance several big ticket infrastructure projects in different parts of the Philippines, such as the planned Kaliwa Dam in Quezon and Rizal provinces. – Rappler.com

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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