Duterte won’t stop POGOs as earnings can be used for COVID-19 response – Panelo
Updated @ 11:20 p.m., March 8, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte would not close down Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), his presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Sunday, noting the revenue they could generate.
“He will not suspend it nor will he stop it,” Panelo said in an interview on Radyo Inquirer.
Panelo, who is also the President’s chief legal counsel, said taxes collected from Pogos could help fund different projects and even the government’s response to the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
“What he told me yesterday was that he was satisfied with Pagcor’s report. So, OK, we really need funds from them. For instance the salary of the nurses, teachers, and so many others. Now we have this problem with the coronavirus. Funds can be pulled from POGO revenues,” Panelo said in Filipino.
“All those revenues can be used as funds because supposedly the money that we get from whatever sources is for the government, the government can use that in any undertaking and activity of the government,” he added.
Panelo had earlier said the President would consider suspending POGO operations should irregularities linked to it further escalate.
Several senators already sounded the alarm over the proliferation of crimes believed to be connected to Pogos, such as money laundering, prostitution, and trafficking.
In a Senate hearing last week, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) told senators that P14 billion of the P54 billion in transactions by Pogos from 2017 to 2019 was linked to “suspicious activities.”
Figures presented by AMLC Executive Director Mel Racela during the hearing showed that around P138 million in Pogo transactions were linked to drug trafficking.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also chided Pagcor for its statement that Pogos should be allowed to continue to operate because of the income the country earns from the industry.
“I am disappointed at the statement today of Pagcor, saying that we are in favor of POGO continuing because of the income earned. That is a short-range statement,” Drilon said in the same hearing.
“The social problems that POGO has brought to our country is not worth it. Let me tell you that to your face. For P8 billion from fees that you get, you are saying that they should be here?” he added.
Panelo, however, said that problems on the operations of POGOs in the country can be solved with the implementation of “established laws and regulations.”
“Those problems in the operation, we can find solutions to them. All you have to do is to implement established laws and regulations,” he said.
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