Juan Miguel Zubiri claims that the country has been added to China’s secret tourism blacklist because of concerns over offshore gambling activities.
The Philippines.- The president of the Philippine Senate, Juan Miguel Zubiri, has claimed that China has placed the Philippines on its tourist destination blacklist due to concerns about the offshore gambling industry. Although the Beijing embassy in Manila denies it, Zubiri said that he was informed by Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian during a session studying the potential impact of banning POGOs.
The existence of a Chinese blacklist of tourist destinations has been discussed for some time, but the Chinese government has never made it official nor revealed what countries are on the list. The Chinese Embassy has released a statement denying Zubiri’s claim and stating that it actually expects more Chinese citizens to visit the Philippines.
According to PhilStar, Zubiri said: “Ambassador Huang said that the Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the tourist going there will be joining POGO operations and they do not know if their nationals who go to the Philippines will be safe from illegal activities done by the Triad, by the syndicates operating POGO.”
However, senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also present at the meeting with Huang, told reporters that the Philippines has not yet been blacklisted but that it could be if POGOs continue to operate.
In 2020, the Chinese government established a blacklist of destinations to which cross-border transfers are controlled. The blacklist is compiled by multiple departments, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security. In March 2021, China’s revised Criminal Law made it illegal to assist cross-border gambling.
If the Philippines has been included on the list, it could significantly affect tourism as China is among the main sources of tourist arrivals, although the number has dropped massively since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Philippine government is studying a proposal to ban POGOs put forward after reports of kidnappings linked to the gaming sector. However, David Leechiu, CEO of Leechiu Property Consultants, warned of a possible loss of PHP5.8bn in government taxes. Leechiu said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) would lose PHP5.25bn in revenue and 347,000 workers would lose their jobs.
On Monday (October 10), Michael Danganan, a spokesman for the Association of Service Providers and POGOs (ASPAP), warned that more than 23,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs if the government finally bans POGOs.