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House leader questions proposed resumption of POGO operations

/ 11:32 AM April 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — “Resolve issues first, allow operations later.”

This is the stand of House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. following a proposal to allow the resumption of operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) for additional funding for combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

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“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 in a statement.

“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,” Abante added.

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To recall, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap, who chairs the House appropriations committee, earlier asked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to allow the resumption of the operations of Pogos citing “tax purposes.”

But if the government will allow POGO workers to attend to their jobs, it would only send a “conflicting message” to the public especially with the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine in the Luzon region, Abante argued.

“Many of our countrymen want to go back to work because the ECQ has deprived them of their livelihoods, and we tell them that we cannot allow them to work for now for the good of the public’s health,” Abante said.

“Kung hayaan natin makabalik ang POGO sa gitna ng krisis na ito, tatanungin nila, bakit ang mga foreigner na ito pwede magtrabaho, kami hindi? That is a conflicting message government cannot send, not while it adopts more measures to strictly enforce the ECQ,” he added.

(If we will allow POGOs to resume amid this crisis, the public will ask us why foreigners are allowed to work while they are not?  That is a conflicting message government cannot send, not while it adopts more measures to strictly enforce the ECQ.)

Further, Abante said that Pogos are not an “essential” industry in fighting the pandemic. 

“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,” the lawmaker said.

/MUF

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