Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairperson Senator Richard Gordon has said that “somebody must be making money” from the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) industry, and the “money must be very good.”
When asked if he was convinced that POGO operations must be stopped, Gordon said, “I like to see them show the cost benefit.”
Gordon stressed the POGO industry in the Philippine is like ABS-CBN Inc. in which if you shutdown its operations, many would be rendered jobless.
“Para lang lng ABS-CBN, may 11,000 na mawawalan ng trabaho,” pointed out Gordon.
Although the government is trying to put the country in good life with the POGO industry, Gordon, however, lamented the undeniable fact that a lot of money is coming in,whether from China, Hongkong and Singapore where there is no currency control.
Conceding that the operation of POGO by Chinese nationals helps generate revenues for the Philippine government, Gordon, however, cited the billions of pesos laundered into the Philippines.
Earlier, Pagcor Chairman Andrea D. Domingo said the POGO industry is contributing P20 billion a year on lease payments to the real-estate sector.
She also said the industry is also estimated to generate P24 billion in income taxes annually and P1.25 billion in value-added tax monthly from foreign workers who purchase around P12.5 billion a month.
But Gordon also warned the huge money entering the country could also pose a security threat to the country.
He likewise mentioned about the two People’s Liberation Army (PLA) IDs found in possession of Yang Chao Wen, 32, and Liang Yuan Wu, 29, arrested in Makati for the murder of Yin Jian Tao, 33, who worked in the POGO industry.
The PLA is the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China and its founding and ruling political party, the Communist Party of China.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier told reporters in an ambush interview he was informed that around 2,000 to 3,000 PLAs may have entered the country as tourists or as POGO workers.
Lacson, chairman of the committee on national defense and security, also said the PLAs are allegedly on “immersion mission.” But Lacson had repeatedly noted that this report still needs to be validated, describing his source as “fairly reliable.”
Atty. Victor Padilla, Senior Manager, Anti-Money Laundering Complaint Department of PAGCOR, which regulates POGO operations, said they are addressing all the negative effects of POGO in the country.
He also told Gordon’s committee that if it is reported that a player is coming from China, and China says they should close the company, they will close the company.
Furthermore, they conduct random inspection once they received reports about a POGO operating without a license.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has stood pat on his stand that POGO operations should be stopped, citing that the P8 billion collected from their fees and licenses is not worth the rising social problems and gambling-related crimes brought about by their presence.
Padilla said they made sure authorized players of POGO licensees adhere to the rules under Offshore Gaming Regulatory Manual (OGRM)
As part of the safeguards in offshore gaming, he also said said certificate guarantees that respective websites of POGO licensees cannot be accessed within the Philippine territory.
Furthermore, POGO licensees are enjoined to implement a strict player registration so that no money from gaming comes in the territory of the Philippines.
At most, the money that comes in are for the administrative expense of the POGO licensees and other fees and taxes due to the Philippine government. /Stacy Ang