By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday opposed the government’s plans to allow Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) to resume their operations amid the imposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Drilon said enabling POGOs to operate again will defeat the government’s efforts at curbing the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“I am totally against the resumption of POGO operations. A selective lockdown is being proposed for two reasons: a) to allow essential industries, such as construction and manufacturing, to operate in order to revive our economy; b) and to enable workers to earn income,” Drilon said.
Drilon urged the government to weigh the risks of allowing POGOs to resume their operations again.
“The resumption of POGO will not serve the rationale for a partial lifting of the ECQ to enable essential industries to operate,” added the senator. “Since when did POGO become an essential industry?”
Other senators have also questioned the proposal of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to reopen the POGO industry which is considered a high-risk sector.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Department of Finance ought to have a clear framework on what sector to allow to operate, “not just because of income contribution to the government, but also the likelihood that the industries will be spreading the disease.”
“My concern with POGO is, it is not only a high risk sector, it [also] has a huge potential of spreading the disease because there are several workers working an enclosed area and are residing in high rise condominiums,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva also said most of these Chinese-operated POGOs don’t pay taxes.
“So what’s the rationale for allowing them to operate?” he pointed out.
Senate President Ralph Recto, for his part, said he hopes the government will prioritize helping farmers and construction workers return to their work in the event it chooses to partially lift the ECQ.