PALACE BRIEFING. Office of the Press Secretary officer-in-charge Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil holds a press briefing for the Malacañang Press Corps on Tuesday (Oct. 11, 2022). It was Garafil’s first Palace briefing since she assumed post last week. (Photo by Valerie Escalera /NIB)

MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said it has yet to receive an advisory on the Philippines' inclusion in China’s blacklist of tourist destinations due to continued operations of offshore gaming operators.

OPS officer-in-charge Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil made this remark after Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri bared this development during the Senate committee on ways and means hearing on Tuesday following his discussion with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.

“Wala pa po kaming nare-receive na advisory with respect to that blacklisting issue so pag nabigyan na po kami ng kaukulang advisory, we will make the proper comment. (We have not yet received an advisory with respect to that blacklisting issue so when we have been given the corresponding advisory, we will make the proper comment),” Garafil said in her first Palace press briefing since assuming her post last week.

Asked if the Palace is concerned over the statement considering Chinese tourists are among the top visitor markets cited by the Department of Tourism (DOT), Garafil opted not to speculate on the issue.

Chinese nationals accounted for 1.7 million arrivals in 2019, according to data from the DOT.

“Ayaw ko po mag speculate so hintayin nalang po natin ang advisory kung mayroon man po. I don’t want to comment sa isang bagay na hindi pa po namin naconfirm (I don’t want to speculate so let us wait for an advisory if there is one. I don’t want to comment on a topic that has not been confirmed),” she added.

Earlier, Huang said the Chinese government is supporting the Philippines in its crackdown on crimes related to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said many kidnappings being investigated by the Philippine National Police involved POGOs.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he supports ending POGO activities because of the “social cost” associated with the industry.

"Studies on the POGO industry have shown that POGO operations involve illegal activities such as prostitution, employment of minors, and violation of labor laws," Diokno said in his position paper submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and Ways and Means.

He also noted that POGO has “reputational risk,” especially since other countries like China and Cambodia have already discontinued it.
Citing government data, he said POGO revenues plunged to PHP3.9 billion in 2021 from PHP7.2 billion in 2020.

Diokno said it is time for the country to pursue investments that will create value and high-quality jobs for Filipinos. (PNA)