SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers yesterday called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to cancel the licenses and shut down the operations of established and planned offshore online gaming hubs in Clark, Pampanga and Kawit, Cavite.
These Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs, Barbers said, which reportedly would be used exclusively by Chinese workers, would likely become havens for undesirable aliens and drug trafficking and other crime syndicates for their money laundering and illicit operations.
“We’ve already seen and heard in the news the intended purpose of these POGOs and their workers, engaging in kidnap for ransom, murder, online fraud, tax fraud, illegal gambling, human traffic, prostitution, and money laundering, among others,” Barbers, the chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said.
“Di pa ba sapat sa PAGCOR ang mga ebidensya na ito para kanselahin ang lisensya at isara ang mga POGO hubs na ito. Dahil ba sa pera kaya bulag, pipi at bingi sila sa mga nagaganap sa mga POGOs at mga workers nito?” he asked.
There had been many issues that were cropping up in the media, such as non-payment of P50 billion in taxes; alleged entry of at least 3,000 China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops on ‘immersion mission”; the use of only one BIR Tax Identification Number by 4,000 POGO workers; suspected entry and money laundering of syndicates that brought at least US$160 million; and involvement in various criminal activities.
“With that data in their faces, how could PAGCOR be deaf and blind and still insists they need these POGOs for the possible revenue they could contribute to the government coffers? Are they stupid enough to just let go of these ‘in your face’ transgression to the Filipino people?” he said.
With the granting of license and establishment of more POGO hubs, he said PAGCOR would likely be inviting more trouble for the Filipinos concerning social, labor and national security issues.
Pagcor said that under the POGO hub scheme, the operators should “contain” their foreign workers in single location where they can “live, work, and play.”
The facility will house office spaces, dormitories, restaurants, and recreational facilities. The POGO hubs will also have satellite offices of the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Pagcor.
“Hindi malayong maging kuta ang mga POGO hubs na ito ang mga kasapi ng mga drug and other crime syndicates, money launderers, at mga wanted ng batas mula sa China at ibang bansa dahil sigurado na hindi tayo bibigyan ng access sa mga self-contained hubs na ito,” Barbers said.
Barbers said that based on information provided by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), drug syndicates operating at the “Golden Triangle” (Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar) had used the POGO scheme and adopted this as cover for their money laundering and drug trade based in Myanmar.
“Now, it becomes apparent that these syndicates from the Golden Triangle is or would be using the same scheme here, and worse, with the blessings of Philippine authorities. Even the Chinese authorities are fuming mad at these Chinese-manned POGO hubs in Myanmar that they canceled the passports of their nationals working in those hubs,” he disclosed.
Pagcor chairman Andrea D. Domingo has said Pagcor has allowed the Oriental Group to transform 10-hectare and 20-hectare lots in Pampanga and Cavite into POGO hubs, respectively.
Oriental Group general manager Kevin Wong, according to reports, has stated that their hub in Clark is already operational while the company’s P8 billion facility in Cavite is set to open soon.