By Genalyn Kabiling and Ellson Quismorio
The controversial offshore gaming service will still be allowed to operate in the country for now.
President Duterte has decided not to suspend or stop the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) due to the anticipated revenues that can be used for the programs and projects such as government’s efforts against the coronavirus threat.
The President made the decision after reading a report from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Operations (Pagcor) on the POGO revenues, according to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.
“Nandun pa rin (It is still there). He will not suspend or nor he will stop it,” Panelo said in a radio interview Sunday.
“Ang sabi niya kahapon maganda ang report ni PAGCOR head. Maganda raw ang report ni PAGCOR, so okay. Kailangan talaga natin ang pondo galing doon (He said Saturday that the report of the PAGCOR head is good so okay. We really need the revenues from these operations),” he added.
Panelo admitted that the government programs such as salaries for government workers as well as campaign against the new coronavirus could be funded by the revenues from the online gaming services.
“Marami tayong projects na kailangan natin ng pondo for instance for the salaries of the nurses, teachers. Marami. Ngayon may problema na naman tayo sa coronavirus e di maari nating pagkunan doon (We have many projects that required funds. For instance, the salaries of nurses, teachers. We have many needs. Now we have a problem with the coronavirus, we get the funds from them),” he said.
The government, meantime, will continue to enforce the law to clamp down on the alleged illegal activities related to POGOs, according to Panelo.
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Some lawmakers had earlier called for the suspension of offshore gambling services mostly run by Chinese nationals following a string of alleged violations of the law.
Among the illegal activities reportedly linked to the POGOs are tax evasion, money laundering, corruption, illegal recruitment of Chinese workers and sex trafficking.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila recently declared that illegal activities allegedly involving Chinese nationals are “isolated” cases and do not represent the “whole picture” of the China-Philippine relations.
It also promised to continue to cooperate with the Philippine government in combating crime and other illegal activities.
GMRC, culture-sensitivity training for POGO workers
It’s about time to subject foreign Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) workers to Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) seminars and culture-sensitivity training.
Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong called the initiative of PAGCOR regarding the GMRC training for the visiting workers as “timely.”
“They must be reminded that although Filipinos are hospitable, they should abide by our laws and respect our cultures and traditions.
It’s just like having visitors in your house. When they start breaking things and start pestering other people, it is just right that we should show them the way out. What I’m proposing is that we lay down our house rules before we let them inside our house,” Ong said.
For Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, there’s already enough evidence out there to warrant the closure of POGOs, if only due to the crime links.
Barbers, chairman of the Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said POGOs would “likely become havens for undesirable aliens, drug traffickers, and other crime syndicates for their money-laundering and illicit operations” if authorities don’t act fast.