MANILA – Malacañang on Saturday denied that the national government is playing favorites when it allowed the partial operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
During the Laging Handa program aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that POGOs are allowed to operate in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) because they are part of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.
“Wala pong favoritism diyan (There is no favoritism there). On the contrary, the equal protection clause provides that all those similarly situated must be treated alike. So dahil isang klaseng BPO ang POGO, kinakailangang mapagbuksan din sila, be it ECQ or GCQ (Since POGO is a kind of BPO, they should operate, be it in areas under ECQ or GCQ),” Roque said.
The national government has allowed 30 percent of POGOs’ workforce to report for work during the ECQ and GCQ in the country.
ECQ, which is more stringent quarantine than GCQ, is implemented in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, except Aurora; Calabarzon; Benguet; Pangasinan; Iloilo province; Cebu province; Bacolod City; and Davao City.
GCQ, meanwhile, is imposed in all low-risk and moderate-risk areas nationwide.
Roque said the partial resumption of POGOs’ operations is necessary to augment the government’s funds to address Covid-19.
“Ang pinakaimportante, lahat ng kikitain sa POGOs na ito ay pupunta po sa gastos ng gobyerno para naman dito sa Covid-19 response natin (The most important is all revenues from POGOs will be used to boost the government’s funding for Covid-19 response),” he said.
Around 60 POGOs have secured licensed to operate from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR). Around 218 POGO service providers in the country have 108, 914 foreign employees.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said revenues from POGOs could be used as additional funds for Covid-19 response.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is targeting the collection of at least PHP2 billion a month from POGOs.
Roque said the fate of 30 percent of POGO employees who can report for work will be up to Pagcor and BIR.
He reiterated that POGOs need to settle taxes and obtain clearance from BIR, pay fees required by Pagcor, and shoulder the Covid-19 testing of its employees before they can resume operations.
“Inaasahan po nila na matatagalan pa na magbukas muli ang POGOs dahil napakadaming requirements (They expect that the reopening of POGOs would take longer because of the requirements),” Roque said.
Roque said just like BPOs, POGOs must provide temporary housing and shuttle services for their on-site workers.
He also expressed confidence that PAGCOR will coordinate with the Department of Health to ensure POGOs’ strict compliance with health regulations imposed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Importante rin po na bilang isang POGO, mag-comply sila sa requirement na kinakailangan (It is important for POGOs to comply with the necessary requirements),” Roque said. (ia/PNA)