By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday called for a “massive crackdown” of foreigners who have been illegally working in the Philippines.
Pimentel issued his appeal a day after the committee led by Sen. Risa Hontiveros uncovered in its inquiry that women were being prostituted to workers in Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) in a scheme compared to an online food delivery service.
He said this should prompt the government to initiate a more serious campaign against illegal foreign workers in POGOs, who are mostly Chinese nationals without valid travel and work documents.
“There should be massive crackdown. Send them home,” Pimentel told reporters in an interview.
“Malaki ang pagkakataong iligal ‘yan kasi may report tayo na narereceive na visa upon arrival (VUA) ang mga nakuha ng mga ‘yan. Eh visa upon arrival pangturista lang yon, hindi pwedeng pang trabahante ‘yon (There is a huge possibility that they are illegal because we have received reports that they were given visas upon arrival. VUAs are only for tourists, not for workers),” he said.
Pimentel added that Chinese nationals who were hired as construction workers should also not be in the Philippines. Lawmakers earlier lamented that foreign workers take away job opportunities that should be given to Filipinos in the first place.
“Masyado na pong naaubuso ‘yan, kaya gumising na siguro ang ating immigration, gumising na ang ating labor, ang ating PNP (This has already been abused, so our immigration and labor officials, as well the Philippine National Police, should wake up). There should be a massive crackdown,” he said.
The chair of the Senate foreign relations committee noted that the government of China “is also not happy” with the proliferation of online gambling operations in the Philippines for its exploiting its citizens.
Last year, Beijing formally appealed to the Philippine government to ban POGOs following the rising incidence of crimes involving Chinese nationals. China had banned all forms of gambling, including online and overseas gambling.
“So maybe, if we have massive crackdown, we will have a convergence of interest between Philippines and China,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel also expressed support for the calls to ban online gambling operations, saying the government should not rely on POGOs to sustain the country’s growth.
Pimentel urged the Bureau of Immigration (BI) should further tighten its policies on the issuance of VUAs to make sure that it would not be taken advantage by aliens who intended to work in the Philippines.
He said labor officials, as well as other government regulators, should also make sure that companies are complying with the country’s laws particularly on the employment of foreign nationals.
The PNP, meanwhile, should go after those who are responsible for the prostitution dens victimizing Chinese, Korean, and even Filipino women.