By Dhel Nazario
Makati Mayor Abigail Binay has declared an indefinite moratorium on the issuance of new business licenses and permits to service providers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to rising criminality and prostitution.
Effective immediately, the city will cease to issue “Letters of No Objection” (LONO) and stop accepting new applications for business permits from POGO service providers, the mayor said in a statement.
“We would no longer accept new applications for POGO service providers and crack down hard against illegal activities that are catering to POGOs and their employees within Makati,” she stated.
The mayor cited “overheating” in the residential and commercial leasing market as well as rising criminality and prostitution as major reasons for her decision not to add more of these companies to operate in the country’s premier financial district.
The influx of thousands of foreign workers employed by POGOs increases the demand for housing and work stations, thus causing property rates in the city to spike. This puts the local property sector at risk of overheating, where its growth becomes unsustainable.
Mayor Binay noted that almost all POGO service providers located in Makati are Pagcor-licensed and duly registered with the Business Permits and Licensing Office. This has led to the city earning more than P200 million per year in local business taxes from POGO service providers.
“We will always welcome legitimate businesses in the city that strictly adhere to all laws and ordinances, particularly the payment of taxes. And we will always strive to provide these businesses and their employees with a safe environment conducive to business growth and personal activities,” said Mayor Binay.
Makati recently experienced an increase in unlawful activities targeting POGO employees, who are mostly Chinese. Mayor Abby also pointed out that with the high demand for residential units for POGO employees, there was also an increase in illegal apartment rentals.
“These apartments are usually overcrowded with insufficient exits and faulty fire-alarm systems,” she said.
Given its central location and availability of leasable office buildings with high speed internet, Makati is home to as many as 300 POGO service providers that employ thousands of workers, most of whom are Chinese nationals.
These companies provide services like live e-casino video streaming, call center, marketing, and other technical support to POGO.