By Genalyn Kabiling
Offshore gaming operations may resume limited operations subject to health precautions in community quarantine areas, a Palace official announced Friday.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) are considered business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies that are allowed to operate in places under quarantine.
These offshore gaming operations however may employ only 30 percent of its workforce based on the information from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chair Andrea Domingo, Roque said.
“Narinig ko na interview kanina ni Ginang Andrea Domingo at ang papayagan yata na operation, mabuti na PAGCOR ang mag-discuss nito, ay hanggang 30 percent lamang at kinakailangan magkaroon ng testing bago magpapasok ang 30 percent workforce (I heard the interview of Andrea Domingo and the operations will be allowed with 30 percent workforce. The workers must undergo testing before reporting for work. It’s better for PAGCOR to further discuss this),” he said in a radio interview Friday.
Roque explained that online gaming services are part of the BPOs, citing that they cater to markets outside the country.
“Sa tingin ko ang POGOs ay nasa BPO. Ang pagkakaintindi ko ang POGO ay hindi naman dito ang sugal. Ang sugal niyan ay abroad at ang ginagawa ng mga POGO centers parang silang BPO talaga nandito lang hardware at software. Wala naman na physical na nangyayari na sugal (I think POGOs are BPOs. I understand gambling in BPOs is not done here but abroad. POGO centers have established hardware and software here but the physical gambling is done outside the country),” he said.
Earlier, Roque announced that POGOs remained prohibited even in areas under general community quarantine even as he recognized them as a source of additional revenues for the government. The Palace official however later clarified that he would get clarification from the government task force if POGOs are classified under gaming category or if they belong to BPO sector.
The government has ruled that BPOs are among the companies that are allowed to operate with certain conditions in both enhanced and general community quarantine areas.
In ECQ areas, BPOs are required to provide temporary accommodation and shuttle services for on-site workers or work-from-home arrangements. Those situated in GCQ areas, on the other hand, can only employ a maximum of 50% work on site arrangement and without prejudice to work-from-home and other alternative work arrangements.
Gaming and amusement-related activities, on the other hand, are still banned in both ECQ and GCQ areas.
The online gaming operations, that mostly employ Chinese workers, have been under public scrutiny amid suspected links to money laundering, corruption, and sex trafficking.
President Duterte however has defended that there is no corruption in POGOs, saying they provide revenues to the government and employment in the country.