Biz Buzz: Chinese behaving badly
It’s an industry that has boomed almost overnight, out of which Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. expects to collect P6 billion in fees this year. It has also saved the office property sector from vacancies that would have surged as record supply came to market and helped a lot of condominium developers in Metro Manila sell more residential units.
But some of the mainland Chinese folks manning these online gaming firms—called Pogos or Philippine offshore gaming operators—are starting to make building administration more challenging in the metropolis. Anecdotes are increasing about how the behavior of some Pogo folks is causing a stir among other building stakeholders.
Believe it or not, there have been cases where some of these foreign folks use their feet instead of hands in pressing the buttons on the elevator —just because they feel like doing so. As such, one office property stakeholder stated that if they were to allow Pogos in their office building, the elevator buttons should be placed on eye level.
Then there are cases when some of these Pogo guys have been caught playing card games, specifically, gambling with actual cash bets, in the common areas of some residential condominium towers, in violation of in-house rules. When called out by security, they pay the fine— no matter how high—then afterwards do the same thing again and again.
But the worst anecdote we’ve heard is that in some of the office buildings where the Pogos operate, the maintenance folks are shocked to find the verandas, or open areas where office folks go to get some air or smoke, littered with used condoms. You can just imagine what happens when they take a break, and there’s little effort to cover the trail.
Some office developers have foreseen the potential cultural clash when Pogo folks are mixed with other folks and some have designed some properties in a way where Pogos have their own lobby and elevator. But there’s of course no stopping the interaction, such as in residential condominiums (where such segregation is difficult) or even in public areas like supermarkets or restaurants.
Given these birth pains, and if we assume that Pogos are here to stay (for as long authorities welcome them), maybe there’s a way for Pagcor and the local government units to compel their Pogo licensees to train their foreign staff on local norms so that they can be better integrated into the metropolis. —DORIS DUMLAOABADILLA
Tenth anniversary blues
Thousands of young Chinese workers have swarmed into the Philippines—100,000 according to one estimate—over the last two years to work in the country’s booming online gaming industry, which caters primarily to gamblers from China.
Word on the street is that most of these workers come to the Philippines on tourist visas, with their papers then processed into official working permits only after they land. And their papers are processed —and approved—“in batches of thousands,” according to one person familiar with the operation.
Background checks? Just a cursory process, maybe.
Key officials and engineers of State Grid Corporation of China have no such luck, however.
Their officials and technical personnel still have to go through a torturous vetting process with the Bureau of Immigration in a process that can take several weeks, at least, or several months, at most.
State Grid, of course, owns 40 percent of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, the company that holds a 25- year concession to run the power distribution network of the entire country. NGCP is 60 percent Filipino-owned (split down the middle between
Henry Sy Jr. and Robert Coyiuto Jr.) with the Chinese firm taking up the balance.
NGCP relies on the technical expertise of Chinese engineers who are well-versed with the art and science of transmitting electricity generated in Western China thousands of kilometers to the consumers in the eastern cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Incidentally, the partnership between NGCP and State Grid has hit a milestone by turning a decade old this year, and State Grid officials note that the Philippines was the first foreign investment of the Chinese government-owned firm. Since its 2007 foray abroad, State Grid now holds key stakes in the power distribution systems in Brazil, Portugal, Australia, Hong Kong, Italy and Greece.
State Grid’s 40-percent stake in the winning $3.95-billion bid for NGCP remains, to this day, the single biggest Chinese investment in the Philippines.
But restrictions put in place by the previous administration —ostensibly meant to protect the country’s national security —still make it extremely difficult for their personnel to secure work permits in the Philippines. So whenever they see their young compatriots coming to work in the local online gaming industry by the thousands, and with apparent ease, State Grid’s engineers can only scratch their heads in frustration and envy.
Oh, and the work permits they get are good for only a few months. Upon expiration, they have to repeat the long application process all over again. Go figure.
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