Senate panel’s report, recommendations on POGOs out this week—Gatchalian

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ report on its investigation on the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry is ready to be routed for signatures among members of the Senate, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Sunday, January 22.

“May committee report na, may recommendations na kami, paiikutin na namin ito this week. Target namin Tuesday latest Wednesday (There is already a committee report, we already have recommendations, we will route it for signatures this week. Our target is Tuesday, latest Wednesday),” Gatchalian said in an interview on Radio DZBB.

But Gatchalian said the ways and means panel, which he chairs, will still hold another hearing on Monday, January 23, to thresh out some issues regarding Republic Act 11590 or the law governing the tax payments of POGOs.

“Nung nire-review namin ang Committee Report at binangga namin sa batas, marami kaming nakitang mga katanungan at ito ay particularly sa third party auditor at gusto namin marinig sa PAGCOR at sa third party auditor at sa iba pang mga resource persons natin yung mga issues patungkol dito (When we reviewed the Committee Report and we collided with the law, we found many questions and this is particularly with the third party auditor and we want to hear from PAGCOR and the third party auditor and our other resource persons the issues regarding this),” Gatchalian said.

“Pangalawa, meron din kaming nakita sa batas na dapat mapag-usapan. Ito ang income tax na binabayaran ng mga nagtatrabaho, foreigner na nagtatrabaho sa POGO (Second, we also saw something in the law that should be discussed. This is the income tax paid by working, foreign workers working in POGO),” he added.

Last Friday, in an interview in Zurich, Switzerland, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. expressed his belief that allowing POGOs to operate might no longer be worth it especially if they would bring much social cost to the country due to the crimes linked to their operations.

But Marcos only pointed to illegal POGOs, saying he wants to know the motivation for banning POGOs in the country and if maintaining their operations would still be a good idea for the Philippines.

Gatchalian, however, said that while he agrees that banning POGO operations totally in the Philippines could bring about a negative impact, it would only be in the short term.

The senator said business establishments, such as restaurants, salon or grocery stores that only cater to Chinese clients would soon find it necessary to open their markets to non-Chinese consumers.

“So yun talagang maapektuhan yun in the short term. Pero tingin ko naman kapag naramdaman nilang mawawala ang POGO, maglalagay na sila ng English sa kanilang menu, maglalagay na sila ng English sa karatula ay makakatanggap na rin sila ng ibang kliyente (So they will really be affected in the short term. But I think that when they feel that POGO will disappear, they will put English on their menu, they will put English on their signs and they will receive other clients),” he said.

“So in the short term, aminado naman tayo may epekto yan. Pero in the long term, mas mabuti sa atin dahil hindi na matatakot ang investors at mga tourist na pumuta sa atin (So in the short term, we admit that it would have an effect. But in the long term, it's better for us because the investors and tourists who bet on us will no longer be afraid),” he pointed out.

The lawmaker said even the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DOF) were also adamant in closing up POGO operations in the Philippines due to their “social cost.”