MANILA – The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not comment when asked to confirm Beijing's supposed blacklisting of the country over Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators' (POGOs) operations.

In a statement, however, it said it expects "more Chinese tourists" to visit the Philippines once the global health crisis is over.

"To further elucidate on the 'tourist blacklist' remarks, tourism is an important component of practical cooperation between China and the Philippines which has helped further deepen long-time friendship between the two peoples," the statement read.

"Before the Covid-19 pandemic close to 2 million Chinese nationals traveled to the Philippines in 2019, making China the second largest source of tourists. We expect more Chinese tourists to come to this country after the pandemic," it added.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri had earlier cited information from a meeting with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that the Philippines had been blacklisted due to POGOs operating in the Philippines.

The Chinese government in 2020 mentioned the use of two blacklists -- one for gamblers and the other for cross-border gambling tourist destinations.

A Xinhua report said travel restrictions will be imposed on Chinese citizens heading to overseas cities and scenic areas on the list.

When asked again to clarify if Manila was indeed included, the embassy only pointed to their statement.

Meanwhile, it noted that Huang reiterated China’s policy on its firm opposition to POGO when he met with Zubiri, Sen. Win Gatchalian and Sen. Robin Padilla.

"It is appreciated that relevant Philippine law enforcement agencies rescued a number of Chinese citizens and shut down some POGO companies during their operations," it said.

"Crimes induced by and associated with POGO not only harm China’s interests and China-Philippines relations, but also hurt the interests of the Philippines. It is therefore widely believed that social costs of POGO far outweigh its economic benefits to the Philippines in the long run and POGO should be tackled from the root so as to address the social ills in a sweeping manner," it added. (PNA)