MANILA – A leader of the House of Representatives on Wednesday cautioned the government against the plan to resume Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators’ (POGOs) operations amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. said issues hounding POGOs should be resolved first, such as non-remittance of revenues and non-payment of taxes, before their operations are allowed to resume.
“In hearings in the House and the Senate, we have been told that one, we cannot even properly keep track of and document POGO workers; and two, that we have not been able to collect taxes from them,” Abante said.
“If that is the case, then allowing them to resume operations ostensibly so the government can earn revenues to help battle the Covid-19 outbreak makes little sense,” he added.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairman Andrea Domingo on April 21 told the media that she has written the President and recommended the resumption of POGO operations.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez confirmed that the matter was referred to the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Abante noted that the government would be sending “conflicting signals” to the public regarding the ECQ should it allow POGO employees to return to work, considering that non-essential businesses were ordered to suspend operations due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
“The government has suspended work in the whole of Luzon to keep people from going outside to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but has allowed essential industries like food production, manufacture, and sales to continue,” he said.
“The operative word here is ‘essential;’ it is my view that POGOs are not an essential industry needed by the country as we work to overcome the outbreak. Gambling, in all shapes and forms, is not essential. It is a vice––one that any country can do without, whether it be the Philippines or China,” he added.
Earlier, ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, vice-chair of the House committee on games and amusements, called for the lifting of the suspension to boost tax collection.
“In view of exhausting government coffers, the suspension of POGO operations should be lifted immediately to give our tax collection a much-needed boost,” Yap said.
“The foreign workers are here anyway. Like us, some of them are also going out to get what they need. They go to groceries, drug stores, restaurants. Kung nandito lang naman din sila (If they are already here), why not allow them to operate. Work from home arrangements should be explored,” Yap added. (PNA)