Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday expressed concern over the operation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) near military camps, saying these establishments could easily become a breeding ground for espionage.
In an ambush interview, Lorenzana said POGO workers can allegedly shift their operations to spying.
"That is very concerning kasi until such time na nakita ko 'yung mga mapa, malalapit na rito... especially example [Camp] Aguinaldo, meron diyan sa Araneta Center, sa Eastwood," Lorenzana said.
"Ako personally I think there should be no need to worry but kung makikita mo na 'yung maraming tao na nandiyan, it's very easy for these people to shift their activities to spying," Lorenzana added.
Lorenzana said it would be better if these POGOs are not situated near military installations, noting that POGOs should be located in areas where concerned agencies can monitor them.
"I support the idea na to put them in a hub na malayo sa mga kampo... doon lang sila para macontrol sila ng authorities saka ng Finance naman saka ng Immigration," Lorenzana said.
The Defense chief, however, acknowledged the fact that POGO operators, who are mostly Chinese nationals, are helping the Philippine industry.
"We are making a lot of money out of these POGO workers... to now question bakit sila nandito is parang hindi ba magkatugma..." he said.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Benjamin Madrigal said there should be a balance between development and security when it comes to the operation of POGOs.
"At the end of the day, sabi nga maliban sa ating mga maaaring sources of income, dapat kasama rito 'yung pangangalaga... 'yung alam naman siguro natin na 'yung all other security considerations in undertaking these activities naisasama natin," he told reporters.
Madrigal, meanwhile, admitted that the military is checking the possibility of alleged spying activities of POGO operators.
"Of course lahat ng ito tinitingnan natin ano... ang sabi nga without being paranoid, of course we can always... meron tayong hi-low na sinasabi na ganyan yung possibilities," he said.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) earlier proposed to transfer Chinese online gaming workers in self-contained communities or hubs.
This proposal, however, did not sit well with the Chinese embassy, which said this “may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned.”
PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo, in response, said that the Chinese POGO workers will be transferred to these hubs for their own good. — MDM, GMA News