Claims that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China are conducting spying operations against their host country is “preposterous”, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Sunday.
This in response to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s statement that Filipinos working in China could also be accused of spying in wake of the DND chief’s concerns over the operation of Chinese Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) centers near military camps and facilities, adding that its employees could easily shift to spying.
“That’s the most preposterous statement I heard in a long while. POGO workers here are not comparable to OFWs in China. POGO workers came over for a different purpose, e.g., likely just tourism, but eventually got visas to work in an activity at the POGO centers operating gambling operations which is prohibited in China,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.
Also, he pointed out that Chinese companies are mandated by their government to assist in intelligence collection and it is not far-fetched to think that individuals could be compelled to do so.
Meanwhile, OFWs in China, Lorenzana said, went there for specific work that is legitimate with Chinese visas.
“Our OFWs are more like Chinese workers here in the Philippines in construction projects mutually agreed upon by both countries. There are no POGO-like centers in China operated purely by Filipinos near Chinese military camps,” the DND chief stressed.
And besides, he said OFWs in China are widely dispersed, working in homes and schools away from military camps unlike Chinese POGO centers in the Philippines which are very near military camps and naval bases.
“It could be just coincidental because these were the only facilities offered for POGO operations and I believe that the POGO workers are here only just for work only. What I am alarmed is the potential that they could be tapped for info gathering purposes,” Lorenzana added.
For this reason, the DND chief said he is supporting proposals to place these Chinese POGO centers in hubs.
“That is why I support the relocation of the POGO centers to eco-zones that are not proximate to military camps,” he emphasized. PNA