The Philippines continues its crackdown against some elements of the gambling industry in the country under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte. Authorities in the Philippines arrested over 1300 Chinese nationals last week who were allegedly involved in illegal online gambling activities and were also suspected to have been in the country without valid visas. After determining that most had enteredt he country legaly, but overstayed their visas, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) has decided to deport them all after being charged with “overstaying, working in violation of the limitations and conditions of their visa, and engaging in an unlicensed online gaming business,” according to a report in the Philippine Inquirer today.

The majority of those arrested were thought to be participating in an illegal online gambling operation that was based out of Clark Field, a former US air base. These Chinese nationals were suspected of working in something similar to a call center operation and targeting Chinese gamblers in Mainland China. This has now become the biggest arrest of Chinese nationals in the Philippines and has caused Beijing to express concern over these mass arrests.

In a statement, Geng Shuang, a representative for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said “China expresses concern over the large number of Chinese citizens detained by the Philippines.”

The ministry has also called upon the Philippines to provide medical assistance to those Chinese who were sick and to release individuals who had the necessary documentation to prove they were legally allowed to work in the Philippines. The Philippines does permit online gambling but only in specified locations that are subject to zoning regulations.

China and the Philippines had a strained relationship in the past but after President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent visit to China things changed for the better.  The President has stated that if China and Russia wanted to create a new order in the world, the Philippines would be the first to join the new order. China has also reportedly backed President Duterte’s extra-judicial executions of drug traffickers and users in the country while Duterte has laughed off reports that the International Criminal Court might level charges against him.

Authorities in China may be happy for the help in their own gambling crackdown if the call center was recruiting gamblers from the mainland there. Chinese police earlier arrested 3 Australian citizens among 18 individuals who were alleged to have violated gambling laws in the country. The 3 Australians were employees of Crown Resorts and were alleged to have been promoting gambling services in a bid to attract Chinese gamblers to Crown Resort casinos in Australia.