By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

More than 300 Chinese workers were arrested last week for working in the Philippines without a permit.

According to the Bureau of Immigration, 342 illegal Chinese workers were nabbed during a raid in a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) operating out of Quezon City.

All the detained workers were found to have no work permit, nor visa, meaning they entered the country illegally.

“This is another massive arrest by our Intelligence Division in coordination with the Quezon City Police District-National Capital Region Police Office,” said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, adding that “This could not have been possible without their help.”

Last September, 277 Chinese workers were also arrested, this time in Pasig City. They were found to be part of a fraudulent on-line scheme.

Also that same month, 324 Chinese workers were arrested in the island province of Palawan. They were found to be involved in cybercriminal activities.

The latest arrest of Chinese workers in Quezon City over-burdened the Bureau of Immigration’s detention facilities.

While licensed to operate in Quezon City, the POGO did not have a permit from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to conduct on-line gambling operations.

It was later found that the Chinese embassy cancelled the passports of the 342 arrested workers. This made them fugitives from justice. They can therefore be charged in court and, if convicted, serve time at the national penitentiary before being deported back to China.

POGOs have been sprouting all over Metro Manila in recent years following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot towards China.

Latest estimates say that almost 20 percent of all office rentals in the metropolis are now by POGOs. While they employ thousands of workers from China, few jobs are given to Filipinos, which has resulted in complaints against their operations before the Department of Labor and Employment.

The entry of so many Chinese looking for places to live has seen a dramatic rise in rent, to the point that units have risen beyond the reach of middle class working Filipinos.

Worst of all, the Philippine National Police (PNP) pointed out that some of the POGOs may be nothing more than fronts for illegal gambling, drugs and prostitution.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, raised the possibility that some of the Chinese workers were actually spies from the Chinese military.

Estimates place at 200,000 the number of Chinese workers working in POGOs. The total rises dramatically when Chinese workers employed by Chinese companies involved in construction work is included.

These Chinese laborers are known to live in houses for rent, often with dozens staying in places intended for a single family. They are said to be paid 10 times what a Filipino worker gets for doing the same kind of manual labor.

In the last couple of years, the PNP has noted an increase of crimes against the Chinese POGO employees by other Chinese nationals.

The most recent case involved the alleged kidnapping of a Chinese women at the heart of the Makati business district, in full view of scores of witnesses, as well as CCTV cameras.

The video showed that the woman knew her supposed kidnappers since she seemed to be seen willingly entering the vehicle of the suspected kidnappers. She then exited the vehicle but was forced back inside by her captors.

Her live-in partner was then seen entering then hurriedly leaving the condominium building. Initial police investigation showed that the case involved non-payment for either the purchase or rental of a residential unit.

The PNP fears that crimes within the Chinese expat community will become more violent as their numbers increase.