The Philippine immigration bureau says its agents, backed by troops, have arrested 324 Chinese accused of involvement in illegal online gambling and other crimes in a raid on eight hotels and other establishments in Puerto Princesa City, in Palawan, province. Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Chinese were arrested on Monday, "where they were caught in the act of doing their illegal activities."
The Philippines government, backed by the Chinese government, has launched a crackdown on large numbers of Chinese who entered the country as tourists and then work for online gambling operations, which are illegal in China.
Morente said Tuesday that, "Initial reports indicate that most of these aliens are overstaying and undocumented, and that they would be deported for violating the conditions of their stay in the Philippines and working without authorization.”
During the raids, immigration and police seized more than 500 laptops and cellphones from the Chinese. Many of the Chinese who were arrested were unable to provide authorities with their passports or other travel documents, and the few that did have passports had only tourism visa stamps in the them.
Immigration officials said the raids were prompted after local officials in Puerto Princesa had filed multiple complaints regarding the presence of many illegal Chinese workers in the area and their “suspicious activities.”
Palawan is an island province where the Philippine military's Western Command conducts naval and air patrols to defend Philippine-claimed areas in the disputed South China Sea. Philippine defense officials recently expressed concern over the presence of large numbers of Chinese near local military camps and the raids in Puerto Princesa were considered a two-tier action that also helps to maintain the military’s activities in the area.
This is the second major raid involving illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines, with a raid in Manila last week netting 277 Chinese who were arrested because of their participation in an online investment scam syndicate that defrauded hundreds of people in China.
In August the Chinese Embassy in Manila told Philippine government authorities that many Chinese have been illegally recruited to work in the gambling industry in the Philippines, and that the majority of these people entered the country on tourist visas and do not have work permits.
Immigration officials have said that these are only the beginning of their actions against illegal foreign workers "who use the Philippines as a venue for illegal activities, particularly unauthorized online gaming activities, cyber fraud and investment scams that prey on unsuspecting victims who are mostly abroad."