Press Release
August 22, 2019

OFWs are workers, not spies - De Lima

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has rejected what she called as baseless insinuation that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working and residing in China are supposedly potential security threats and spies.

De Lima made the statement after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's disclosure that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua compared OFWs from Chinese workers in the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO), saying that Beijing could also suspect Filipino workers of espionage.

"Our modern-day heroes are not spies in foreign lands but workers who try to turn night into day in a challenging yet legitimate job to provide better opportunities for their families here. The idea is downright unacceptable and ridiculous," she said.

"Ipagtanggol nating ang ating mga OFW mula sa di-makatwirang paratang ng Tsina. Huwag din nating hayaang malihis ang isyu at gamitin ang OFWs para pagtakpan ang kahina-hinalang pagdagsa ng mga illegal POGO workers sa ating bansa," she added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier warned that existing and upcoming China-manned online gambling centers, or commonly referred to as POGO hubs, situated near military and police camps in the country may be used for surveillance activity.

Lorenzana's warning prompted Zhao Jianhua to tell Panelo through a text message that the Filipino workers in China may also be accused of spying - a statement which Lorenzana described as "preposterous."

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said she agrees with Lorenzana's statement that OFWs in China are not comparable with Chinese workers in offshore gaming operations who came into the country as tourists but ended up working for POGOs.

"Dumaan sa legal na proseo ang mga OFWs na nagta-trabaho sa China, kabilang na dito ang paghahanap ng lehitimong employer bago pa man sila lumipad patungo sa nasabing bansa at pag-a-apply ng working visa," she said.

"That's why it is unfair that our overseas workers are now being likened to POGO workers, some of whom may not even have legal working permits, who work in suspicious POGO establishments near several military camps in Metro Manila," she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol earlier warned against what she feared could be the beginning of a creeping Chinese colonization amid the establishment of a 32-hectare complex dubbed as "Pogo Island" in Kawit, Cavite and in other parts of the country.

In this 18th Congress, she filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 64 to inquire into the exact nature, terms and parameters of the reported "verbal fishing agreement" with China, and determine whether it is an executive agreement or international agreement/treaty requiring the Senate concurrence.

She also filed SR 93 calling for the cancellation of the development agreements involving Fuga, Grande and Chiquita islands to protect our country from risks posed by China's aggressive military activities in the Asia Pacific region,

Recently, De Lima also renewed her call to the Duterte government to ensure that POGO operators are strictly complying with the country's laws on employment and taxation, calling to mind SR No. 1030 which she filed in the 17th Congress.

In her SR No. 1030, De Lima asked the Senate to look into the reported failure of POGO firms to comply with government regulations on foreign workers, notably in paying appropriate personal income taxes due to the Philippine government.

In the 17th Congress, De Lima also filed SR No. 751 to investigate what she referred to as the "immigration surge" of Chinese nationals in the Philippines which threatens to steal jobs away from ordinary Filipinos.

News Latest News Feed