By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is expected to look into the risks of allowing the resumption of certain industries such as offshore gaming operations during the quarantine period.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government recognizes the contribution of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to revenue collection but will review if the industry should be allowed to reopen.
“Ang POGO po kabahagi po iyan siguro ng isang industriya na nagbibigay ng cash resource sa Presidente, sa ating pamahalaan, sa pamamagitan ng buwis,” he said in a virtual press briefing Tuesday.
(POGOs are among the industries that give cash resources to the President, to the government through taxes.)
“Ang tatanungin po natin is, ano iyong risk na pino-pose ng operation ng POGO? Mababawasan ba iyong risk ng pagkalat ng sakit sa pamamagitan ng social distancing at pupuwede bang mag-work from home iyang mga POGO industries na iyan?”
(The question we ask is, what are risks are posed by the operations of POGOs? Will the risk of coronavirus spread be reduced through social distancing? Can POGO industries work from home?)
Roque said President Duterte has not yet decided on the possible resumption of POGO operations while the enhanced community quarantine remained in effect in Luzon. The matter was not discussed in the President’s meeting with Cabinet members last Monday.
He said Duterte will still decide on whether to extend or modify the ECQ in Luzon after April 30 depending on the coronavirus cases and the country’s healthcare capacity. The President’s decision may include whether or not some industries will be allowed to resume operations.
“‘Yung pagbubukas po ng POGO ay kabahagi po iyan doon sa suma total na dapat desisyunan ng Presidente, dahil matapos po tanungin kung gaano kalala ang problem sa COVID sa isang partikular na lugar, eh mayroon nga pong mga kuwestyon na dapat sagutin: Ano iyong mga industriya na dapat buksan at ang dapat buksan po?” he said.
(The opening of POGOs will be part of the sum total of the President’s decision, because once we ask how grave the COVID situation is in a particular area, there will be questions about which industries will be allowed to operate),” he said.
The government has enforced a sweeping quarantine in Luzon to contain the coronavirus outbreak since mid-March, prohibiting the operations of POGOs, casinos, and other gambling activities.
Exempted from the quarantine policy are private establishments that provide essential services such as groceries, supermarkets, drug stores, banks, power, and other public utilities.
POGO operations were recently 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 has maintained that there is no corruption in POGOs, saying their operations are “clean” and in fact generate huge revenues and employment in the country
The country has around 60 POGOs and 200 service providers with around 120,000 workers, mostly Chinese nationals.