PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has asked for China’s cooperation in addressing crimes committed against its citizens in the Philippines.
Duterte, in particular, zeroed in on cases of Chinese nationals being kidnapped by loan sharks preying on gamblers.
“Once they lose heavily, there are financials mostly Chinese that would lend you the money. But after that, they would ask for your repayment and if it cannot be repaid at once, they kidnap and sometimes they kill Chinese nationals; kidnapped by Chinese nationals,” Duterte said in a speech at a business forum in Beijing, where he was on a four-day official visit.
“Since there are laws to be followed, I have asked your government to help us on this,” he added.
Duterte also warned Chinese nationals against engaging in the illegal drug trade and other criminal activities while in the Philippines.
“For those who are into drugs, crimes, I am just asking them: Please avoid the Philippines because if you destroy my country with drugs, cocaine and everything, I will kill you. Period,” he said.
“But if you are a law-abiding citizen, if you are a businessman and you are thriving, rich, do not worry we will protect you. We will protect your money. And when the time comes you want to go out, you can bring all your money outside of the Philippines. That is my guarantee and you have my protection and word of honor.”
The Chinese Embassy in Manila earlier claimed of dozens of kidnappings of Chinese citizens who gamble or work illegally in gambling entities in the Philippines.
It also said some Chinese citizens were physically tortured, injured or even murdered.
The embassy also lamented that a large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
Last week, the Chinese government urged the Philippines to ban online gambling after the latter stopped accepting applications for offshore gaming licenses until all concerns have been addressed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping repeated this call during his bilateral meeting with Duterte on Thursday, said Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“During the bilateral meeting, the President of China expressed appreciation of the suspension of POGO applicants but he mentioned – I clearly heard him saying - that they would appreciate more if the POGO operations completely ceased,” Panelo said at a news conference on Friday.
“Because he explained, according to them gambling is illegal in China and most of the players there are Chinese nationals and also crimes are being committed with respect to that like money laundering.”
Panelo said Duterte was not able to respond to Xi although the President will “most likely” study the potential consequences of banning online gambling in the Philippines.
“Ang pag-aaralan dun ano bang mawawala sa atin kung itigil mo ‘yung online gaming. Will it affect the budget? You must remember that revenues are coming in, so, he’ll have to consult with the Finance Department,” he said.
Manila’s Ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Sta. Romana on Thursday said China cannot force the Philippines to ban online gambling.
“They can’t dictate on us. Those are sovereign decision[s]. That is where we stand,” he told reporters when asked whether the Philippines will reject the Chinese government’s plea.