Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday criticized the statement of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua that overseas Filipino workers in China could also be accused of spying as the issue on the establishment of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations near military camps flared up.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Saturday said that Zhao had sent him a text message saying OFWs in China could be suspected as spies if Filipinos also see Chinese POGO operators as such.
“That’s the most preposterous statement I heard in a long while. POGO workers here are not comparable to OFWs in China,” Lorenzana said.
According to the Defense chief, POGO workers usually come over to the Philippines for a different purpose, such as visiting the country as tourists.
“But eventually, (they) got visas to work in an activity at the POGO centers operating gambling operations which is prohibited in China,” he said.
“Knowing that Chinese companies are mandated by the Chinese government to assist in intelligence collection for their government, it is not far-fetched that individuals, likewise, could be compelled to do so,” he added.
On the other hand, Lorenzana said that OFWs go to China for specific work “that is legitimate there with Chinese visas.”
“They are more like Chinese nationals working in construction projects here in the Philippines, as mutually agreed upon by both countries. There are no POGO-like centers in China that can be operated purely by Filipinos near Chinese military camps,” Lorenzana argued.
The Defense chief also said that OFWs are “widely dispersed” in China as they work in homes and schools “that are far way from military camps.”
The brewing tension between the two officials stemmed from the issue that Chinese-operated POGOs are being built near military camps and naval bases across the country.
POGO centers were built in Eastwood City and Araneta Center in Quezon City where Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is situated, and in Resorts World near Villamor Airbase, which is the home of the Philippine Air Force, in Pasay City. (Martin Sadongdong)