AUGUST 18, 2019 — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hit back at Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s remark asserting that China can suspect overseas Filipino workers of spying as well.
Lorenzana deemed the assertion “preposterous” as he explained the difference between the situation of OFWs in China and Chinese nationals working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO).
“The OFWs went to China for specific work that’s legitimate there with Chinese visas,” said Lorenzana.
The Defense chief also pointed out that OFWs in China are “widely dispersed” and work a fair distance away from military camps.
“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 doing gambling operations which is prohibited in China,” he said.
Meanwhile, POGO centers in the Philippines are situated near military camps and naval bases, according to Lorenzana.
“It could be just coincidental because these were the only facilities offered for POGO Operations,” said the Defense chief.
While Lorenzana said he believed that Chinese nationals are here for work, he found alarming the possibility of China tapping on the workers to gather information.
“Knowing that Chinese Companies are mandated by the Chinese government to assist in intel collection for their government, it is not far fetched that individuals, likewise, could be compelled to do so,” Lorenzana said.
“That is why I support the relocation of the POGO centers to eco-zones that are not proximate to military camps,” he added.
According to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, he received a message from Ambassador Zhao who said it was possible for China to suspect OFWs of spying.
In a radio interview, Panelo said that the Chinese envoy may have only been expressing an opinion.