By Ellson Quismorio
Anticipating a second extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap said on Monday that the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) should be allowed to resume operations if only to provide the government with fresh funds.
“In view of exhausting government coffers, the suspension of POGO operations should be lifted immediately to give our tax collection a much-needed boost. We need all the help that we can get right now,” said Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
“I honestly believe that the ECQ won’t be totally lifted by April 30 and there may still be a need for us to support the people next month. Saan tayo kukuha ng pondo? Kailangan natin humanap ng paraan para madagdagan ang collection ng taxes (Where do we get the funds? We need to find a way to augment tax collection), but it should not be at the expense of public health,” he reckoned.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) ordered the suspension of POGO operations for the duration of the ECQ to halt the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the dreaded disease COVID-19.
The Luzon-wide ECQ was supposed to last only from March 15 to April 13 but President Duterte decided to extend it up to the end of the month in order to avoid a resurgence of positive cases in the event of a premature lifting of the quarantine measure.
But depending on how the next few days play out, a second extension of the ECQ remains a possibility.
Yap proposed that POGO employees be allowed to work from home, like what some private companies are doing.
“The foreign workers are here anyway. Like us, some of them are also going out to get what they need. They go to groceries, drug stores, restaurants. Kung nandito lang naman din sila (If they’re here anyway), why not allow them to operate?
“Work from home arrangements should be explored or kung kailangan magpunta ng mga workplaces, dapat stay-in (they can impose stay-in rules for essential employees). If you can’t do either, you will not be allowed to operate,” the House leader added.
“Let’s think out of the box. PAGCOR should come up with guidelines stipulating do’s and don’ts. The new normal restricts our movement, that should be very clear and that should be strictly observed in order to prevent the spread of the virus,” Yap stressed.
Yap said what’s important is for the government to find ways to create revenue amid the ECQ since it still needs to deliver aid to the people, particularly those who have been stripped of their livelihood under the current situation.
“Hindi makakasama sa atin kung may dagdag tayong makukuhanan ng pera para magamit natin para sa mga kababayan nating nagugutom (It won’t be bad to have a source of additional funds for us to feed our countrymen). Lives are at stake and we need to act fast,” he said.
The government’s social amelioration program for the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein some 18 million families all over the country will receive cash aid worth P5,000 to 8,000, will only last until May.