MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is studying the proposal to allow the resumption of operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) to boost funding for the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has suggested the reopening of POGOs amid Covid-19 pandemic in the country, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview with government-owned Radyo Pilipinas.
“Nag-rekomenda na po si Secretary Dominguez, kung hindi po ako nagkakamali. Pero iyan po ay pinag-aaralan pa rin ng Presidente. Hindi po kasi pupuwede na special ang desisyon sa mga POGO (Secretary Dominguez already made a recommendation, if I’m not mistaken. But the President is still studying the proposal because he can’t make a special decision for POGOs),” Roque said.
All businesses, including POGOs, have been temporarily closed amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Luzon and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao to contain the spread of Covid-19.
However, establishments offering essential services are exempted from the temporary closure during the ECQ.
Dominguez earlier said the government is carefully weighing the possible resumption of POGO operations, considering that revenues from the online gaming industry could augment the national government’s funds to fight Covid-19 pandemic.
Around PHP275-billion funds have been granted to the national government to help it in its fight against Covid-19.
Duterte, some of his Cabinet members, and other high-ranking government officials have donated their salaries to boost efforts to halt the spread of the contagion.
Roque said Duterte would consider all factors in deciding on the proposed reopening of POGOs in the country.
“Ang tanong pa rin, nasaan iyong mga POGO kung sila ay nasa lugar kung saan may outbreak. And limitado po talaga ang opsiyon ng Presidente diyan (The question is: Where are the POGOs operating? Are they operating in areas where there is an outbreak? The President really has a limited option),” he said.
At least 60 POGOs are authorized by state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to operate in the country.
Around 218 POGO service providers in the country that employed around 108,914 foreign workers are being monitored by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Following the intensified crackdown on errant POGOs, the national government was able to collect a total of PHP6.42 billion in taxes from POGOs and their service providers in 2019.
The tax collection last year increased to PHP4.04 billion, or 169 percent, compared to the PHP2.38 billion posted in 2018.
The national government is targeting to collect PHP2 billion in taxes per month from POGOs. (PNA)