By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) will have to temporarily suspend operations while Luzon remained on enhanced community quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said only private establishments engaged in food, medicine, banks, power, and other basic necessities will remain open during the Luzon-wide quarantine.
Nograles, in a Palace press conference Monday night, noted that offshore gaming services were not included in the list of establishments allowed to operate
“Hindi naman napag-usapan so ‘pag ‘di namin napag-usapan, then closed. Wala siya sa mga establishments na napag-usapan namin (We didn’t discuss it. So, if we didn’t discuss, then it means it’s closed. It’s not in the list of establishments we discussed),” he said when asked if POGO operations will be allowed to operate.
“Like I said ‘in case of doubt, no.’ And then we’ll just siguro—like I said, day-to-day nga ang aming assessment, so day-to-day magkakaroon tayo ng panibagong mga resolutions (And then we’ll just, like I said, take a day-to-day assessment and formulate new resolutions),” he added.
POGO operations have recently been under public scrutiny following reports of alleged criminal and other illegal activities. Some senators have called for the suspension of these gambling operations amid concerns about their suspected links to money laundering, corruption, and sex trafficking.
President Duterte had earlier declared that there is no corruption in the POGOs despite the alleged irregularities such as money laundering linked to the industry. He said these offshore gaming operations are “clean” and in fact generate huge revenues and employment for the country
There are around 60 POGOs and 200 service providers with around 120,000 workers, mostly Chinese nationals, in the country.
The President has ordered an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, directing residents to observe strict home quarantine as part of intensified efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
Guidelines on the Luzon-wide quarantine measure are contained in the memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Among the private establishments allowed to open are those related “to food and medicine production, i.e., public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drug stores, food preparation and delivery services, water-refilling stations, manufacturing and processing plants of basic food products and medicines, banks, money transfer services, power, energy, water and telecommunications supplies and facilities.”
The government also allowed business process outsourcing establishments, export-oriented industries, and the media to remain operational. Media personnel will have to secure identification cards from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) so they can travel within the quarantine area.
The establishments that were allowed to operate have been advised by the government to adopt a skeletal workforce and observe strict social distancing measures.