SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — As government officials expressed dismay over the rising number of Chinese retirees in the country, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) positively announced further decline in the number of Chinese workers in this premier free port, particularly those working in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) industry.
According to SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, Chinese workers employed by POGO firms here number less than five hundred today , compared to more than 1,500 just four months ago.
“This is because the POGO operators cannot do business after the declaration of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine last March, and thus were losing money,” Eisma explained.
“In fact one of the four POGO operators here, the Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp., has closed shop after losing P106 million, so it sent its workers back home to China,” she said.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect POGO establishments, we can expect more Chinese workers here to be repatriated,” she added.
Eisma revealed this situation in Subic after public officials, among them senators Richard Gordon and Nancy Binay, noted during the recent Department of Tourism (DOT) budget hearing that a total of 27,678 foreigners from mainland China had availed of the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV).
Pointing out that the youngest Chinese retiree in the country was just 35 years old, Gordon reportedly described the situation as “dangerous” for national security.
Eisma, however, said the situation in Subic “is nothing to be alarmed about, because the number of Chinese POGO workers is trending downwards, not upwards.”
According to figures from the SBMA Business Group, about 85% of the Chinese workers hired by POGO firms here have been retrenched since March when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the global economy hard.
The first casualty here was Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp., which ceased operations in June and retrenched all its 374 personnel, including 368 Chinese nationals and six Filipinos.
The company used to pay the SBMA an annual share of P533,700 on top of its monthly sublease fee of P84,000. However, the firm reportedly lost P106 million in revenue, hence its closure in June.
The remaining three POGO companies likewise reported cutbacks in employment: The Teleempire, Inc., which occupies an office building and two living quarters in this Freeport, reported a total of 409 Chinese workers last July, but this has gone down to 242 as of Sept. 28.
Another firm the Northfolk Information Technologies, Inc., which provides backroom services to a POGO operator based in Olongapo City, listed 225 Chinese employees last July, but has whittled down the number to 100 as of Sept. 28.
Ekxinum. Inc., which used to occupy four buildings at the Cubi area here, has now left three buildings vacant and reduced its Chinese worker complement from 231 active visa holders, with 169 on process last July, to 42 active visa holders, with 14 on process as of Sept. 28.
The three POGO firms maintain a total of 170 Filipino workers as of Sept. 28, SBMA records indicated.
Eisma said the POGO operators in Subic are not expected to resume operations anytime soon, as even some online gaming operators in Manila that cater to the Chinese market have recently exited the Philippines.