By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has joined calls for the government to rid the country of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) so that the economy can benefit from honest and legal investments.
Gatchalian said there is no point in maintaining an industry where criminal syndicates are the ones gaining advantage instead of the government.
“What’s the point? Why do we have an industry that we are not gaining anything from? I heard also that China is also saying that it is not allowed, or they are not also gaining in that fund, so what’s the point of all this?” Gatchalian said in an interview on CNN.
“The question is – who is gaining? The gainers here are the criminal syndicates, which we don’t want. Those people who are thinking of doing illegal activities are the ones gaining which we don’t want,” he pointed out.
Gatchalian said the government should be after legitimate businessmen who pay the right taxes and who will not commit crimes in the country.
“So my point here is, at this point, it seems to me that POGO is not giving the country any gain socially and economically and we don’t want that. What we want are honest businessmen to pay the right taxes,” he said.
The senator said that apart from the separate hearings held by the Senate Committees on Women and Children, and Labor and Employment on the rise of POGO-related crimes, there is now a growing consensus to investigate the POGO industry in the country in detail.
Gatchalian admitted that he used to defend the need to maintain the POGO operations in the country, but the situation has already changed and the industry has attracted criminal activity instead.
“If need be, maybe the Senate can recommend to stop the POGO operations in the country if we are not gaining anything,” he said.
“The situation now, as it seems, the POGO two years ago and the POGO now has typically changed. In the beginning, my sentiment is different because you see, the POGO coming here, there’s employment, there’s taxes but now, with the crime coming here, my views are totally different now,” he said.
“The situation has changed and we want to protect our own people from criminal syndicates coming here,” he pointed out.
He said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has also expressed confidence that the country’s economy won’t be greatly affected once the POGO industry is removed.
“I’m very confident because I talked to our regulator, Bangko Sentral (BSP), and they are very confident that if POGO disappears, property industry will not be affected. Jobs will not dramatically be affected,” the lawmaker said.
“The only negative impact will be Pagcor because it is the one handling the franchise tax,” he said, referring to the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. which regulates all gaming entities in the country.
“But I think Pagcor can offset that with other industries. Crimes are non-negotiable. We don’t want to see a society living in fear where everyone is in fear, not only Filipinos, but also fellow Chinese who come here to honestly work. So we don’t want to live in fear,” he pointed out.
“First option is to enforce, meaning, collect taxes, arrest the criminals. Two, if things are not happening, then we have to think whether to continue to allow POGO or not,” Gatchalian said.