Philippines-China relations

Bersamin, Chinese envoy meet as POGO-linked crimes under scrutiny

Dwight de Leon

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Bersamin, Chinese envoy meet as POGO-linked crimes under scrutiny

MEETING. Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin meets with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on July 2, 2024, discussing how to strengthen their partnership to fight organized crime.

Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission

The high-level meeting comes as allegations against POGOs are amplified by a Senate investigation into the background of a Philippine mayor who is accused of being a Chinese spy

MANILA, Philippines – China reaffirmed to the Marcos administration its cooperation with the government’s crackdown on Philippine offshore gaming operators, which comes on the heels of a Senate probe into allegations that a mayor with POGO ties is an asset of Beijing.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin met with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on Tuesday, July 2, and the two parties discussed how to “strengthen their partnership” in the fight against organized crime.

“China expressed its appreciation for the recent actions taken by Philippine law enforcement authorities to counter illegal offshore gambling and to rescue several Chinese nationals,” the PAOCC press release read. “The Chinese embassy in the Philippines has been actively collaborating and maintaining open communication channels with their Philippine counterparts throughout this process.”

“The strengthened cooperation between China and the Philippines sends a clear message to criminal syndicates operating across borders that their malicious activities will not be tolerated nor allowed to undermine the security and stability of these nations,” it added.

China urged the Philippines in June to put an end to offshore gambling, which it called a “social ill” that encourages crimes of kidnapping, human trafficking, and murder.

POGOs sprouted across the Philippines beginning 2016, and grew exponentially in the succeeding years, as operators took advantage of liberal gaming laws under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. Many POGO operators are run by Chinese nationals, as gambling in their home country is banned.

In the past year, Beijing helped Manila shut down five POGO hubs and repatriate a thousand Chinese individuals.

Scrutiny against POGO operators has intensified as the Senate investigates Alice Guo, the suspended mayor of Bamban, Tarlac. According to government documents, Guo was at one point a major shareholder of Baofu Land Development, owner of the property where a POGO hub operated in her municipality.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also believes Guo was planted by China to infiltrate local politics in the Philippines.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) later confirmed that the mayor’s fingerprints matched with those of Guo Hua Ping, who arrived in the Philippines from China in 2003.

“She is a Chinese national masquerading as Filipino citizen to facilitate crimes being committed by POGO,” Hontiveros had said.

Prior to the NBI bombshell, Guo insisted she was not a Chinese spy, and denied allegations of involvement in money laundering, human trafficking, and kidnapping schemes.

She had also written to Bersamin, requesting a fair investigation into her life. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.