2nd Senate panel backs phaseout of Pogos
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs is supporting the proposed phaseout of Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) but is leaving the decision to Malacañang, which can opt to retain them under more stringent regulations, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said on Saturday.
In a radio interview, Dela Rosa, committee chair, said that while he agrees with the findings of the Senate committee on ways and means for the phaseout of Pogos, his panel is recommending a longer period of one to two years to allow Pogos to wind down their operations.
“I signed the [ways and means] committee report to allow it to be endorsed to the plenary for discussions, but I have manifested some reservation and that I will interpellate because what it recommended is outright banning,” he said.
Dela Rosa’s committee is the second of two panels that conducted a joint investigation of the Pogo industry to look into the economic benefits derived from it and weighed them against the crimes caused by its presence.
The senator said that while his committee has yet to release the committee report, it was inclined to support a gradual phaseout of Pogos, but for a period longer than the three months proposed by the other committee, chaired by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
“I’m still for the phasing out of Pogo, but not outright. It must have a phasing out period,” he said in a radio interview.
According to Dela Rosa, he is recommending an outright ban on illegal Pogo firms, but the legitimate ones must be given a one to two year extension to give them time to “adjust” and find alternatives to their industry.
Dela Rosa said he would withdraw his signature to the Gatchalian panel’s report if it pushes an immediate ban on Pogos, saying it would be “unfair” to Pogo investors.
“For my part, I will not vote for outright banning because I am for a gradual phaseout to allow all stakeholders to adjust,” he said.
In the event Malacañang allows the continued operation of Pogos, Dela Rosa said his panel would propose that all its operations be done inside a “Pogo zone” for a more stringent law enforcement.
“All regulatory activities by the [Bureau of] Immigration, Pagcor (Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp.) Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation shall be undertaken within this Pogo zone,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, Gatchalian filed his committee report after months of delay.
The committee concluded that the social costs brought by Pogo operations outweighed the purported benefits from them in the form of tax payments and income from business rentals.