Manila’s top diplomat in Beijing has rejected calls by China for the Philippines to issue a blanket ban on online gambling.
Speaking shortly before the leaders of the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Détente, held talks in Beijing overnight at which they failed to raise the issue, Ambassador Jose Santiago Sta. Romana appeared to pour cold water on the idea, which was first mooted last week.
“They can’t dictate on us. Those are sovereign decisions … that is where we stand,” Romana said at a press briefing. “He (Duterte) will say it’s legal in the Philippines.
“The key is for the President to be ready to explain. And it will have an economic impact on us, so if we are to do it, we want a soft landing.”
Romana stopped short of describing his stance as a rejection of China’s call for a ban, stating, “No, that’s not rejecting. It’s explaining the difference.”
Instead, he pointed to the recent moratorium placed on the issuance of new Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) licenses by gaming regulator PAGCOR as evidence that Manila was willing to work with China on strengthening regulation.
“We don’t want a drastic impact that will adversely affect our economy,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we are already trying it. We’re trying to regulate, to tighten the screws, so to speak, and to monitor.
“Both are interested to crack down on this, so that’s an area of commonality. The difference is that in China, gambling, whether online or offline, is illegal. In the Philippines, it is legal.”
The issue of the Philippines’ rapidly expanding online gaming industry was highlighted by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang last week, who said that China was pleased by the moratorium but hoped it “will go further and ban all online gambling.” Geng described online gambling as “the most dangerous tumor in modern society detested by people all across the world.”
Despite those comments, Xi and Duterte failed to discuss the issue during their overnight meeting, focusing instead on a range of other issues including the strengthening of bilateral ties, South China Sea tensions and future economic development.