Neda chief supports banning Pogos, agrees on ‘social costs’
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Thursday said he would recommend to President Marcos the permanent ban on Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) in the Philippines.
“Personally, yes, if I’m asked,” Balisacan told reporters in Malacañang.
He said at a Palace briefing that “the social costs are quite high” compared to the revenues the government has been receiving from Pogos.
“The costs, especially social costs, are quite high, and we don’t think that the benefits in terms of the revenues generated and the impact on the economy are worth the cost,” Balisacan said when asked about the position of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) on the 120-page Senate report recommending the permanent ban of Pogos in the country.
“I think that what we want to encourage are very legitimate investments, good quality investments,” he added.
According to Balisacan, the government wanted investments that would produce goods and services and “not ones that promote negative externalities to society, such as those alleged crimes and related issues.”
Illegal Pogos have been linked to the spate of kidnappings of Chinese nationals, prostitution and money laundering in the Philippines. “We want investment inflows that will promote not only the economic but also the social aspects of our development,” Balisacan pointed out.
He said he was optimistic that the revenue losses from the expulsion of Pogos in the country would be replaced by new investments.
“Look at Thailand, look at Indonesia, look at all these other countries around us, they don’t depend on those kinds of businesses,” Balisacan said.
Marcos in no rush
Citing data from the Philippine National Police, the Senate report said 99 Pogo-related criminal activities had been recorded from January 2017 to Sept. 30, 2022, with 30 cases of kidnap-for-ransom, 13 cases of cybercrimes, 12 cases of human trafficking and 10 cases of serious illegal detention.
In January this year, Marcos said he was in no rush to ban Pogos as suggested by some sectors.
“It depends what the purpose is of banning them or removing them, because the problem in reference to Pogos, the problems come from the illegal ones, not the legal ones,” he told reporters while attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
But he admitted that the social cost of allowing Pogos in the country “might not be worth what they’re paying in taxes anymore.”
Since then, Marcos has not made any public pronouncement about his position on Pogos.