Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he will not bow to pressure from China to ban online gaming in the country.
Speaking at a news conference upon his return from a five-day official visit to China, during which he met the country’s President Xi Jinping, Duterte said banning Philippines Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) would result in job losses.
He said that he listened to the request from Xi during their meeting, but stressed that the final decision on a ban rested with him.
“I decide that we need it,” Duterte said. “Many [would] lose their jobs. Anyway, it’s government-controlled.”
However, he also issued a strict warning to illegal operators active in the country, and warned POGOs not to dupe the government by not paying taxes, as the only reason they were permitted was to create jobs.
“There's not much work [in the Philippines],” he explained. “If we have progressed as a country, and had many jobs then you wouldn’t have this stupid thing.”
“But at this time, I really couldn't do anything. Many are hungry. […] Just don’t fool the government. Don't fool me.”
Pressure on southeast Asian nations from China to ban online gambling has been growing in recent months, prompting the Philippines gambling regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to put a halt to the issuing of new offshore gaming licences.
This was welcomed by China, which then called for a total ban through Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. It claims that offshore operators are illegally targeting players in China and cheating them out of money. It also alleges that these operators are effectively enslaving Chinese employees.
However the Philippines has proved more resistant to China’s demands. It has sought to play down the impact of POGOs, and the country’s ambassador to China Jose Santiago ‘Chito’ Sta. Romana said that any decision on a ban would be taken by Duterte, not Xi, ahead of the Presidents’ meeting.