MANILA – To put an end to allegations that Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are being used for illegal activities, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass laws further regulating online gambling in the country.
“I want it legalized. If they can pass a law about POGO, fine, go ahead. Supervise it by law. Hindi kami (Not us),” Duterte said in a press conference in Malacañang late Monday night.
The President’s remarks came in response to lawmakers’ accusations that POGOs led to the rise in criminal activities including money-laundering, prostitution, kidnapping among others.
He said he is not inclined to suspend POGO operations because of the billions worth of revenue that can be collected from them.
“We are not justifying it. We are just saying that it is allowed because we need the funds,” he said.
Earlier, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) reported that the government was able to collect roughly PHP7 billion from fees and licenses from the offshore gaming companies.
POGO revenues could help fund government response in addressing the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid the rise in the number of confirmed cases to 24, he added.
Since POGO workers were mostly Chinese workers, he said he could not prohibit them from entering the country because there were also many Filipino workers in China.
“We cannot bar Chinese nationals from entering the country because they allow us to enter China also and even work in Hong Kong,” he said.
He also vowed to account for “every centavo” earned from online gambling.
“Walang corruption diyan at hindi ako papayag (There is no corruption and I won’t allow it),” he said.
Meanwhile, he shrugged off reports on the existence of an alleged money-laundering scheme involving millions of dollars of cash and foreign nationals entering the country from POGOs.
“There is a report of money laundering. Pero doon sa bangko mismo wala (But in the bank itself, there is none). Money laundering — ano mang ibayad mo (what are you going to use as payment)? You are engaged in the business. You deposit money, you withdraw money. Tumatakbo ‘yan eh. May manalo kasi, may matalo. So kailangan nila ng pera magbayad (It keeps running. There will be winners, there will be losers. So they need money to use as payment). And that’s it,” he said.
He said he received documents from banks proving that these money-laundering allegations were false.
He also denied accusations that he allowed POGO businessmen to visit him in Malacañang.
“We do not even allow them to visit us here in Malacañan, ‘yung mga businessman sa POGO. And it is not true per hour that a maybe the embassy of — employees in the Embassy of China are helping POGO workers to come in. That’s not our business unless they are criminals,” he said.
Meanwhile, he assured China that the government is ready to “extract” Filipino workers in China should they cause any problems there.
There are around 60 licensed POGOs still operating in the country.
The government has already imposed a moratorium on new licenses for POGOs, following the issues besetting these firms. (PNA)