The number of Chinese workers, particularly those employed by Philippine offshore gaming operation (POGO) firms, had declined by 75 percent in the last few months and the exodus is expected to continue as the coronavirus persists, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said.

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An empty office of Philippine offshore gaming operation (POGO) firm Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp. manifests the decline of POGO workers at the Subic Bay Freeport. PHOTO CREDIT: SBMA

According to SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma, Chinese workers employed by POGO firms here number less than 500 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 we’re losing money,” she 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,” the SBMA chief said.

She added that as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect POGO establishments, more Chinese workers were expected to be repatriated.

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An ‘open to new tenant’ sign posted at the Gateway Hub building, which used to house the Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp., says much about the state of Philippine offshore gaming operations in Subic. PHOTO CREDIT: SBMA

Eisma revealed this situation in Subic after public officials, among them Senators Richard Gordon and Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, noted during the recent Department of Tourism’s budget hearing, there were 27,678 foreigners from mainland China who had availed of the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa.

Gordon pointed out during the hearing that the youngest Chinese retiree in the country was just aged 35, which was a “dangerous” situation 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 percent of the Chinese workers hired by POGO firms here have been retrenched since March when the pandemic hit the global economy hard.

She cited Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp., a POGO firm, which retrenched all its 374 personnel, including 368 Chinese and six Filipinos when it ceased operations in June.

Eisma said the company used to pay the SBMA an annual share of P533, 700 on top of its monthly sublease fee of P84, 000 but reported a revenue loss amounting to P106 million in revenue, hence its closure in June.

Three other POGO companies likewise reported employment cutbacks.

Teleempire Inc., which occupies an office building and two living quarters in this Freeport and had 409 Chinese workers hired in July, had since reduced its personnel to 242 as of September 28.

Northfolk Information Technologies Inc., a backroom services provider to a POGO operator based in Olongapo City, listed 225 Chinese employees in July, but had cut down its staff to 100 as of end September.

Ekxinum Inc, which used to occupy four buildings at the Cubi area here, has now vacated three buildings and reduced its Chinese workers from 231 active visa holders in July, there are now 42 active visa holders, with 14 on process as of September 28.

SBMA records indicated the three POGO firms employ a total of 170 Filipino workers as of last month.

Eisma said the POGO operators in Subic are not expected to resume operations anytime soon.

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