Fetalvero: Pastillas, Pogo and priorities

OUR Senate conducted a hearing on the alleged bribery scandal involving Immigration officers. Dubbed the “Pastillas” scheme, P10,000 rolled to look like the popular delicacy will allow a Chinese national easy access into the country. Immigration reported that there are now about a million legal Chinese tourists in the country. How about the illegal?

Chinese nationals have been subject of news headlines for their alleged involvement in illegal activities: Kidnapping, prostitution, drug and human trafficking.

Some senators also question the running of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (Pogo) in the country. There are 156,000 Pogo workers and majority, if not all, do not pay income taxes as alleged. The Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) revealed that the exact number of Pogo workers cannot be ascertained. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Pagcor reported the Offshore Gaming Industry taxability allegedly amount to P50 billion inclusive of corporate tax, value added tax and income tax.

Given this information, it defies logic to allow the continued maintenance of Pogo in our country. Do we not have enough problems of our own? We are just in the second month of year 2020 and already our citizens in Batangas and Tagaytay face economic dislocation and hundreds need relocation sites since the government has declared Taal island as no man’s land.

We are still threatened by the coronavirus disease scare. Repatriation and maintenance of quarantine sites take a big chunk to our economy. Tourism, which is one of the higher income generating ventures, is reportedly losing P43.8 billion due to the coronavirus.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority, the Handicraft Industry is affected as well losing P3 billion. Earthquakes in Mindanao and the recent spate of killings are not helping the grim situation.

With the possible abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, we will lose the United States Aid amounting to $886.4 million.

Our country and other Third World countries challenged by climate change need all the financial resources. Can we afford to lose much needed financial assistance just because one senator was refused a United States visa? Sen. Bato de la Rosa vowed on national television that he would die for his idol, President Rodrigo Duterte. Will one self-proclaimed hero alleviate the plight of the millions of Filipinos wallowing in poverty?


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