MANILA, Oct 11 (Mabuhay) –The Chinese government has included the Philippines in its blacklist for tourist destinations due to the continuous operations of offshore gaming, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday, citing Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 11senate2-1024x731.jpg
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, together with Senators Win Gatchalian and Robinhood Padilla welcome H.E. Huang Xilian, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Philippines at the Senate on 10 October 2022. Clean/renewable energy, e-commerce, and people-to-people exchanges were among the important topics discussed. On the socio-economic implications of offshore gaming, which the Senate President raised, the Ambassador reiterated that China is totally opposed. The Ambassador also expressed appreciation for the current administration’s approach in tackling the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea disputes. Both sides agreed to bolster the inter-parliamentary exchanges by participating in high-level visits. (MNS photo)

“Ambassador Huang said that the Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if a tourist will be joining POGO operations and they don’t know if their nationals who go to the Philippines will be safe from illegal activities being done by the triad, by the syndicates operating POGOs,” Zubiri said during the Senate ways and means committee hearing on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

“They may be kidnapped, mistaken for POGO operators. That’s the reason why there’s been a significant drop in Chinese tourists. By the way, they are the largest number of tourists pre-pandemic,” he added.

The information was relayed by the Chinese envoy when the latter paid a courtesy call on Zubiri at the Senate on Monday.

Citing Huang, Zubiri said China wishes that the Philippine government will take action on this.

Malacañang, for its part, said it has not received any advisory regarding the matter.

“Sa totoo lang, wala pa po kaming narereceive na advisory with respect to that blacklisting issue, pagdating na lang po, ‘pag nabigyan kami ng kaukulang advisory, we will make a proper comment,” Office of the Press Secretary officer-in-charge Cheloy Garafil said during a press briefing.

Asked if the government is worried over this matter, Garafil said she doesn’t want to speculate and she prefers to wait for the advisory before making any remark.

Meanwhile, asked if the move is unfair, Garafil said, “I don’t want to comment sa isang bagay po na di pa namin po nacoconfirm.”

At the early part of the hearing, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said China had called on several countries to prohibit offshore gaming operations but the Philippines “did not heed the call.”  (MNS)