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‘High risk’: 2 senators reject proposed resumption of POGOs amid COVID-19 crisis

/ 07:41 PM April 21, 2020
POGO COVID-19


Chinese nationals working on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators have their temperature check as precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus before entering the office building at Pearl Plaza mall in Barangay Tambo, Paranaque City. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — At least two senators rejected on Tuesday a proposed resumption of Philippine Gaming Offshore Operators’ (POGO) operations, a move which the government is looking into to boost funding for the country’s COVID-19 response.

“I am totally against resumption of POGO operations,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a message to reporters.

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This as he noted the reasons why a selective lockdown after the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is currently being proposed.

“A selective lockdown is being proposed for two reasons: (a)to allow essential industries, such as construction and manufacturing, to operate in order to revive our economy; (b) enable workers to earn income,” he said.

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“The resumption of POGO will not serve the rationale for a partial lifting of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) to enable essential industries to operate. Since when did POGO become an essential industry?” the senator added.

For his part, Senator Joel Villanueva warned of risks should the government allow the reopening of POGOs.

“My concern with POGO is, it is not only a high risk sector —it has a huge potential of spreading the disease because there are several workers working an enclosed area and are residing in high rise condominiums,—most of them also don’t pay taxes,” he said in a separate message to reporters.

“So what’s the rationale for allowing them to operate?” he added.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said the government is evaluating the possibility of resuming POGO operations as revenues from the industry could augment the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

After President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine, all businesses, including POGOs, have been temporarily closed to contain the spread of the virus.

Only establishments offering essential services, like those related to food, medicine and healthcare, were exempted from the temporary closure under the quarantine.

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Villanueva, who previously conducted Senate investigations into the influx of illegal foreign workers mostly from POGOS, said the Department of Finance (DOF) “should have a clear framework on what sector to allow to operate.”

DOF’s decision should not only be based on an industry’s income contribution to the government “but also the likelihood that the industries will be spreading the disease,” the senator added.

On the other hand, Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he would be “okay” with resuming POGO operations, provided that its employees work remotely.

Otherwise, Recto said he “would rather allow construction workers and farmers to go back to work.”

“It’s (POGO industry) non-essential,” he said.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
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TAGS: COVID-19, Franklin Drilon, Nation, news, POGOs, Senate
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