HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRIPE-VINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL
It doesn’t take a genius to predict that several government corporations and agencies will still be suffering from downward-spiraling revenues and smaller earnings this 2021. If the COVID pandemic was hopefully seen as a flutter to 2020 targets, and much was made of buckling down and absorbing the blows in 2020, and that 2021 would see a steady climb back, those sort of prognostications have been thrown out with yesterday’s trash. For at least the first half of 2021 (just a month and a half away), the shadow of COVID and some form of quarantine will still be looming, affecting us all.
Tourism for example, can’t anticipate any upswing in the near future. And just last month, during a Kapihan Sa Manila Bay, PAGCOR Chairperson and CEO Andrea “Didi” Domingo said that the state-run corporation could only anticipate revenues of some P16 to P17 billion this year. From a high in 2019 of P80 billion in earnings, 2020 closed with earnings of just below P30 billion.
The different levels of lockdown brought about by the community quarantine, especially in the National Capital Region and NCR Plus, have resulted in 26 PAGCOR-owned casinos being shut down. Six other casinos and 540 e-bingo and e-gaming establishment have also closed – this out of a registered 830 in the NCR.
Even the offshore gaming operators (POGO) have been hit, with 33 POGO’s and 200 service providers ceasing their operations. In pre-pandemic years, the POGO segment alone represented some P9 billion of PAGCOR income. The closure of these POGO’s had led to the retrenchment of some 46,000 people – of which 13,000 are Filipinos. And this has trickled down to our property sector, as the demand for both office and residential space declined.
As a result, CEO Domingo foresees PAGCOR contributing only P5 billion to the Universal Health Care, lower than the P8 billion it released in 2020. Their real hope lies with GCQ (General Community Quarantine) coming back to play in the near future, and LGU’s easing up on the restrictions.
Diversification of revenue streams is one path PAGCOR will be taking this year. DFNN Inc. received a PAGCOR license to offer domestic online gaming services, and this IT solutions and gaming provider is hoping to develop, legalize, and popularize e-sabong – or online cockfighting.
So it was heartening to note that despite these obstacles; and in whatever way possible, PAGCOR was still trying to find ways to be instrumental in national recovery, a partner for resiliency, and helping communities that needed it the most.
Volunteering to pool their personal funds and resources, PAGCOR’s top management recently launched their PAGkain Para sa Masa program. It aims to provide healthy meals to some low-income families affected by the ongoing pandemic and community quarantine. A brainchild of CEO Andrea Domingo, the idea was to acquire fresh produce, especially vegetables, and distribute them to households in dire need of help.
The choice of fresh vegetables was important as these were directly sourced from our local farmers – themselves also severely affected by the lockdown. This was accomplished with the help of the Department of Agriculture. And it was rolled out as a food caravan, brought directly to pre-determined beneficiaries, such as Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City. This will ensure that long queues will be avoided, and health protocols are strictly observed.
As Chairperson Domingo remarked, she had seen queues at food distribution outlets that extended beyond a kilometer, and this at 4 a.m. with a very limited inventory of vegetables to be handed out. For her, mercy and charity shouldn’t demean, but show genuine concern, and it’s hoped that this in-house, volunteerism project of PAGCOR can go a long way in helping particular communities.
When the Hospicio de San Jose, an orphanage run by the Daughters of Charity, located at the Isla de Convalecencia – a narrow island on the Pasig River by Quiapo-was locked down due to a number of its staff and elderly wards contracting COVID-19, PAGCOR Chairperson and CEO Andrea Domingo mobilized the agency to deliver canned goods, milk, eggs, etc., for the facility’s 2,000 wards. The hospicio’s staff expressed great gratitude for this “rescue” call, and the food aid received.
On a more official, business-as-usual note, on May 4th, PAGCOR turned over P25 million to Silago, a coastal municipality in Southern Leyte. This is the first tranche of the P50 million commitment for the construction of a two-storey Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center (MPEC). During the typhoon season, this coastal town experiences heavy rains and strong winds resulting in flooding, mudslides and landslides. Since November 2020, when PAGCOR launched this MPEC initiative, close to P600 million has been released to various municipalities in the country.
At a time when the genuine and ready excuse of dwindling revenues and resources could be bandied about, it’s nice to note and commend how PAGCOR has even evoked the spirit of personal volunteerism to continue the work that needs to be done, and reaffiming their core values. It is unfortunate that during this extreme time of need, we have the state-run corporation suffering its own revenue setbacks – but I love how they’re not making it an excuse.