Issuance of permits to POGO workers creates confusion between DOLE, BI

Published August 16, 2019, 12:03 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Carmela Martinez

The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) has been regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) since August 2016.

That was the same year when the Senate started a committee hearing about the POGOs in Clark Air Base where close to 1,300 people were arrested according to Senator Villanueva in an interview with CNN Philippines’, The Source.

According to PAGCOR, a POGO is an entity that offers and participates in offshore gaming services by providing games to players, taking bets, and paying the winning players. These are usually online games of chance through the internet, using PAGCOR licensed network and software.

POGO is mainly played and operated by foreigners. Filipinos, even overseas are not allowed to play.

These operators are in the Philippines, particularly, the Chinese whose country bans gambling.

The problem lay with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for issuing permits for foreign workers in the Philippines.

“We found out that the Bureau of Immigrations has been issuing special working permits that they should not be issuing,” said Senator Villanueva.

According to the senator, DOLE was issuing the Alien Employment Permit (AEP). The Labor Department should be the only department to issue the permit but the immigration bureau was also issuing a similar permit.

According to the Bureau of Immigration, Special Work Permit (SWP) is for foreign nationals who shall work in the Philippines for three to six months.

The Alien Employment Permit (AEP) is a requirement for work visas to legally engage in employment in the country according to the Department of Labor and Employment.

“Ang DOLE about less than 50,000(AEP applications) a year, ang BI parang hundreds of thousands na ang (SWP) Special Working Permit,” Villanueva said.

“In fact, if you look at the number of Chinese Nationals nalang pag-usapan natin. (About) 95% ng nakikita natin na –legal po ito, came here as a tourist. Tapos nagtatrabaho na. Unfortunately, here comes, the Embassy of China. The Ambassador made mention about their concerns na they were illegally recruited and lured to work here,” he added, remarking on the ‘modern slavery’ of the workers in the online hubs.

When asked if there could only be one department to issue the foreign working permit, the senator said he initiated a provision in the General Appropriations Act that only DOLE should issue the permits.

“Unfortunately, this particular provision was vetoed,” he said.

The senator also remarked that both government agencies should coordinate.

On Thursday, the Malacañang Palace remarked that POGOs are allowed to operate in the country so long as they don’t restrict their workers’ liberties.