The government and the Filipino people are losing millions of pesos in tax revenues sent from iPhone gambling operations in the country, 40 percent to 60 percent of which are illegal.
What is more deplorable is the fact that an agency under the Office of the President, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), has coddled groups that illegally operate outside CEZA and employ illegal aliens.
We have tried to get the comment of CEZA administrator and chief executive officer Jose Mari “Chelly” Ponce on the reported arrest of undocumented aliens, mostly Chinese, bearing “CEZA visas” while working illegally in Metro Manila but our efforts were unsuccessful.
CEZA is supposed to have jurisdiction over the Cagayan Special Economic Zone located in Region II.
Law enforcement authorities have rounded up hundreds of foreigners employed as “call center agents” for online casino firms classified as business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.
Notorious fugitive Wang Bo, a wanted illegal gambling lord and money launderer in China, had repeatedly stayed in the country using a CEZA work visa despite being blacklisted by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Wang, who has been deported on orders of Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison, belonged to a gambling mafia called Avia Group.
Following the Wang Bo case, BI agents hauled nearly 200 alien employees from an online casino hub, Zhong Hwa Enterprises Co. at Star Cruise Center at Newport Village, Pasay City.
At least 155 turned out to be undocumented Chinese reportedly “smuggled” into the country while 35 were recipients of CEZA visa.
Last week, agents of the National Bureau of Investigation and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (NBI-CIDG) swooped down on the suspected illegal online gambling joint, the Xing Qui Ba Inc. at RCBC at Buendia corner Ayala Ave. Makati.
It seems that CEZA’s authority to issue licenses to gambling operators is limitless.
No wonder online casino operations in the country remain widespread and, worse, has become a lucrative market for human smugglers.
They cater to an international market including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia, that’s why they employ primarily Chinese-speaking “call center agents.”
Trafficking and employing Chinese, Malaysians and Indonesians without work visa or work permit have been going on and have gotten worse in recent years.
Indeed, with CEZA’s help, even blacklisted undesirable aliens like gambling lord Clayton Edward Ayre found their way back into the country.
How long has CEZA under Chelly Ponce gotten away with this irregularity?
We should find out when he gets invited to a Congress inquiry to be scheduled soon, according to ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao.
The President should now look into the operations of CEZA. It has been besieged by corruption and inefficiency!
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