‘Ang lakas ng kapit:’ 2 senators slam resumption of POGO ops amid COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — At least two senators on Friday have denounced the decision of the government to partially reopen operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) amid the quarantine being enforced to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Sino ba sa mga nagpapatakbo ng POGO ang napakalakas sa Gobyerno at sila ang prioridad?” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a Facebook post.
(Who among those running POGOs have a strong backer in the government and they are being prioritized?)
“Uunahin pa ang ‘non essential’ na luho ng pagsusugal ng mga Chinese at trabaho ng mga manggagawang Chinese kaysa sa gutom at kawalan ng trabaho ng mga Pilipino? Ang lakas naman ng kapit ng POGO,” he added.
(The government is prioritizing the ‘non-essential’ luxury of Chinese nationals and allowing Chinese POGO employees to go back to work instead of providing food and work to Filipinos. The POGO industry really has a strong backer).
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairperson Andrea Domingo confirmed that the country’s COVID-19 task force has approved her recommendation to resume POGO operations.
Domingo, however, said POGOs will be allowed to partially resume “on a very limited basis and with a very strict protocol.”
Pangilinan, however, pointed out that over 2 million Filipino workers have been displaced due to the lockdown triggered by the current pandemic.
“So bakit POGO operations na hindi naman nagbabayad ng tamang buwis ng mga negosyante at manggagawang Chinese ang minamadali na buksan ng PAGCOR at ng gobyerno?” he stressed.
(Why are POGO operations, who are not paying their taxes are the ones PAGCOR is scrambling to reopen?)
Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva said he finds no “logic” for allowing POGOs to resume its operations.
“Even prior to the pandemic, we said that this industry has no positive net benefit to Filipino society. With the pandemic, they might just contribute to further spreading the disease,” Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said in a message to reporters.
Villanueva has previously led several hearings into the influx of illegal foreign workers, most of whom are employed in POGO companies.
During a hearing of the Senate labor committee in February, an official from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said that POGOs in the country has yet to pay an estimated total of P50 billion from their franchise, corporate and other taxes.
The same hearing also revealed that many of the POGO workers in the country have yet to secure tax identification numbers (TINs).
“So there is no reasonable explanation for allowing them to operate if we are truly thinking of the welfare of the Filipinos,” the senator said.
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