Diokno: Stopping Pogo would affect revenue collection, but better for PH in long run
MANILA, Philippines — While stopping Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo) from running games will somehow affect the country’s revenue collection, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno has admitted that it would be better for the country in the long run.
Diokno, at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, said that he believes stopping Pogos from operating would not put a dent on the country’s finances, adding that the social costs outweigh the revenues put in by the operations.
According to the Department of Finance secretary, it may be a reason why the Philippines is still being watched by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for money laundering — because these gaming operations are supposedly being used for this activity.
“I think makaka-apekto, but I don’t think it will be a big dent to our revenue, ‘cause merong ano ‘yon eh, ako ang objection ko sa Pogo is number one, ‘yong reputational risk ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” Diokno said.
(I think it would affect us, but I don’t think it will be a big dent to our revenue, because there is… my personal objection to the Pogo is that number one, it carries a reputation risk to the Philippine government.)
“Kaya nga tayo siguro hindi maka-alis alis doon sa FATF sa anti-money laundering, these are being used for anti-money laundering purposes,” he added.
(Maybe that’s the reason why we can’t get out of the FATF’s monitoring for anti-money laundering, because these are being used for money laundering purposes.)
Diokno also questioned why the Philippines continues to host these gaming operators when China and other countries like Cambodia have stopped it.
He also said that there is indeed a social cost to the continuous operation of Pogos, as in a practical sense, Philippine National Police (PNP) units are being mobilized to secure these people and go after Pogo-related crimes when they could have been utilized for other matters.
“Bakit ang Pilipinas — ano ba tayo, soft-state ba tayo? Bakit natin ina-allow ‘yan eh hindi na nga ina-allow ‘yan sa China, ‘di na ina-allow sa Cambodia, ‘di ba? Bakit tayo pinapayagan natin, gano’n ba tayo ka-desperado, ‘di ba?” Diokno asked.
(Why is the Philippines hosting these — what are we, a soft-state? Why do we allow these games when China and Cambodia do not allow them. Why do we give them permission to operate here, are we that desperate?)
“Second, talagang may social cost ‘yan, ‘di ba. Maraming nangyayaring krimen, et cetera, tapos siguro ‘yong marami tayong kailangan mo pang i-set aside na part of the PNP to look after these people. So to me, I think I’ve been quoted as saying na let’s get rid of the Pogo, marami naman tayong pagkukuhanan ng revenues,” he added.
(Second, there really is a social cost, many crimes emanate from the games, et cetera, and then we need to set aside a part of the PNP to look after these people. So to me, I think I’ve been quoted as saying that let’s get rid of the Pogo, we have other revenue sources available.)
Several lawmakers like Senator Win Gatchalian from the majority and Minority Leader Senator Koko Pimentel have called for the permanent ban on Pogos, citing the socio-economic impact of the gaming operations.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on ways and means, said that his committee found out that Filipinos “stand to lose more than they will gain from allowing Pogos to continue operating” in the country.
“In light of this, we recommend the permanent banning of offshore gaming operations in the Philippines,” the committee report said.
Last May, Senator Risa Hontiveros — a long time critic of the offshore games — said that several Pogo offices appear to be ordinary call centers, but are actually being used to traffic models to foreigners.
Just this Tuesday, police officers were able to rescue over 2,700 workers in a raid at a Pogo complex in Las Piñas City. The warrants were served due to an alleged violation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
However, Senator Ronald dela Rosa said that he is not in favor of an outright ban on Pogos, saying that these games can be confined in hubs where the government can better monitor operations.