Reopening of POGOs opposed

A PARTY LIST lawmaker on Friday opposed the reopening of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs), stressing it remains a national and public health threat for allegedly not complying with the country’s regulatory laws, especially with the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said POGO’s should not only remain closed, but also be investigated and totally banned as well.

"Also, the supposed P500 million revenue from POGOs will be for naught if more of our people gets infected with COVID since many of these POGOs do not comply with our regulatory laws," Zarate explained. "Fact is, the security concerns raised against POGOs are still very much valid because China has the means, capacity and motive to use these hubs for its own expansionist military and political purposes.

But, another compelling reason for its continued closure and even total ban is that these POGOs may become potential centers for CoViD spread and transmission to others."

"We have received numerous complaints and apprehensions from residents near POGOs expressing their strong opposition to the gaming operations not only because of the social ills that these also promote like prostitution, gambling and others, but more importantly now that the threat of COVID-19 is very real" Zarate stressed.

"Truth to tell, these POGOs are not only skirting their own national laws, particularly China that outlaws gambling, worse these violators are also gaming our laws, by among others not paying the proper taxes supposedly due to the government,” said Zarate.

In a House hearing last November, PAGCOR said it has issued 62 POGO licenses, although, just 49 are operational. However, of those already operational, only ten (10) are paying the corresponding taxes and regulatory fees, according to the BIR.

"Itong sampung operators ay mga domestic o local gaming agents pa at hindi ang mga foreign operators. Dapat ipasara ng tuluyan lahat ng mga POGO violators na ito at wag ng ibukas pa ang mga natitira pa. Bakit malambot tayo sa mga ito samantalang napakahigpit natin sa mga kababayan natin, katulad ng mga sidewalk vendors," Zarate ended.