The chair of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Philippine Senate has submitted a report urging the President to shut down the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country with immediate effect.
About a week ago, one of the long-time opponents of the POGO industry – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian – noted that the experiment with the Philippine Offshore Gaming Оperators had failed to provide the promised economic benefits it had projected and instead created new ways to for corruption and crime, which has damaged the country’s reputation among foreign investors, its diplomatic partners, potential visitors, and even its own residents. Senator Gatchalian further shared that the evidence and data available point to the same conclusion – offshore gaming operations should be suspended in the Philippines once and for all.
The anti-POGO campaigner also announced that he would submit a Senate resolution on the matter that would seek the inclusion of the provision of assistance to the employees of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators that would be affected by such an industry ban. Apart from that, the measure that is expected to be unveiled by Senator Gatchalian would seek the cancellation of all employment permits and working visas that had been handed out to foreign workers in the POGO sector.
Tax avoidance has been among the major concerns outlined in the aforementioned report. According to Senator Gatchalian, the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators had deliberately reported smaller gaming revenues of about PHP34.2 billion – a move that resulted in about PHP1.7 billion in unpaid taxes and also put the country’s relationship with China in jeopardy.
As shared by the anti-POGO campaigner, Chinese nationals were the most prolific consumers of the services offered by the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators. However, gambling is currently illegal in China, and Chinese nationals have been using a loophole to circumvent their domestic criminal law and use the services of offshore gaming companies based in the Philippines, which could put the country’s relationship with China at risk.
POGOs Should Be Given Time to Cease Operations, Other Lawmaker Says
Apart from his aforementioned claims and efforts, Senator Gatchalian also addressed Congress last week, calling for it to formally separate the regulatory role of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) from its casino and gambling operation unit. According to him, an entirely new entity should be created to take care of the regulatory functions of the agency. If this happens, PAGCOR would be eventually left as a gambling operator only.
Reportedly, the CEO and chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation suggested the exact opposite arrangement, saying that the agency could privatize its casino operations unit while he is in charge in order to focus on regulation.
Several days ago, another Philippine Senator, Sonny Angara, shared that he agreed with Senator Gatchalian’s claims that the POGO industry in the Philippines should be shut down but still noted that legal Philippine Osshore Gambling Operators should be allowed to gradually cease their operations in case such a drastic change was adopted.
Senator Angara explained that local lawmakers respected the work and findings of the committees that had done their job investigating the issue and providing evidence that the presence of the so-called POGOs had had certain negative effects on the country, its residents, and/or its relationships with other countries.
According to him, three months is far from being enough for the companies to terminate operations, especially for the ones that had made substantial investments in order to make sure they operate legally on the territory of the country. Considering the fact that it was the Philippine Government that invited offshore gambling operators to invest in the sector in the first place, Senator Angara noted that a longer period would be more justified when it comes to closing the sector for good.