The discovery of some 300 Chinese nationals in Puerto Princesa City who have illegally entered the country to engage in online gambling operations and cyber fraud should be an eye-opener to the various security and regulatory authorities not only in Palawan.

It has not been a secret that the Chinese have come in droves following the national government’s move to encourage online gaming operations through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), or the so-called POGO.

At least one POGO operation in Puerto Princesa City is openly operating, located on the top floors of the Chinese-owned Unitop Hotel in downtown Puerto Princesa City. Apart from this, it was recently discovered that there are many other foreign nationals on long-term stay accommodations in several other medium-sized hotels.

It appears from news reports that the City government has not had anything to do with any POGO operation in the city, as no Mayor’s permit has been granted to any such type of gaming activity.

It also appears that many if not most of the Chinese nationals involved in the online gaming business did not have the proper documentation required that allowed them to legally work in the country.

The fact that this situation has been occurring unchecked by proper authorities for nearly a year only shows the absence of any form of regulation or oversight by relevant agencies, including Pagcor, the Bureau of Immigration, and even local authorities. That this happens in Palawan which is a strategic location in the unresolved territorial dispute between the Philippines and China shows the country’s vulnerability in many aspects.

The government’s response to the situation by rounding up the illegal Chinese workers and deporting them back to China should not stop there. There has to be a proper measure in place that will ensure it won’t continue happening, with clear and specific roles on the part of local government agencies having been defined.