Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, September 6, called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to immediately collect from Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) the P1.36 billion they owe the government.
Hontiveros issued the appeal after Commission on Audit (COA) found that 15 POGOs owed Pagcor the amount. Pagcor’s legal department said that of the 15 delinquent POGOs, three were still operating as of January 12, 2021; eight had their licenses canceled, three were under review, and one was suspended.
“Bakit hinayaang umabot sa ganitong kalaki ang utang ng POGO (Why has the Pagcor allowed the POGOs’ debt to balloon to such amount)? Pagcor needs to throw its weight and go after them,” Hontivero said in a statement.
“Kapag nagbayad na, dapat huwag na bigyan pa ng lisensya. Kung ang mga Pilipino nga na hindi makapagbayad ng upa, sinisingil kaagad. Samantalang ang POGOs, sobra-sobrang palugit ang ibinibigay (And once they have paid, they shouldn’t be given licenses. Filipinos are rushed to pay they rent while POGOs are given respite),” she added.
Hontiveros recalled that when POGOs entered the country, “we were promised investment and economic activity, but what we got was a myriad of crimes.”
The senator has been calling for an end to the operations of POGOs in the country. She led the Senate investigation on the rise of POGO-related prostitution and abduction.
She also rejected the preferential tax treatment given to POGOs under the tax bill approved in the Senate last June, citing the “opacity and murkiness of the industry.”
“If we don’t kick POGOs out, chances are these crimes will only multiply,” Hontiveros said.
“Pagcor should not condone this P1.36-[billion] debt. I’ve repeatedly called on the government to get rid of POGOs because the social cost of their operations outweigh the shallow gains. Sakit sila sa ulo na hindi kailanman magagamot. We didn’t need POGOs then and we surely don’t need them now,” Hontiveros maintained.