LAWMAKERS of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) Party-List Tuesday, May 5, files a House Resolution which urges the House of Representatives to pass a resolution expressing the opposition of the Lower Chamber to the decision of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), as approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), to allow Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) to resume operations amidst the current Covid-19 state of national health emergency and calls for the immediate rescinding of the decision.
CIBAC Party-List Representatives Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Domeng Rivera, authors of the said measure, said that a resolution by the House of Representatives calling for the withdrawal of the decision allowing POGOs to resume operations will embody the collective sense of the elected representatives of the people on the issue and must give a weighty hint to the concerned agencies of the will and sentiment of the Filipino people.
“All the recipes for the government to shut down these gambling businesses are already glaring before our eyes. They are gambling entities prohibited during the quarantine period, they are not “essential” industries, they owe the government hefty billions of unpaid taxes, they are not business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and majority of their employees are not Filipinos. If we allow them to operate, a lot of our policymakers have already expressed doubts if these POGOs will pay the necessary taxes expected of them to augment the resources of the government for its crisis response measures because if these companies have stubbornly refused to pay obligations in the past, there’s no assurance or mechanisms set in place, so far, that will ensure payment of taxes now. It’s really baffling why the government deeply cares to help this gambling industry operate amidst crisis,” adds Deputy Speaker Villanueva.
“If these POGOs are willing to pay their tax delinquencies prior to resumption of operations, they should very well do so in good faith and not as a bargain to continue their gambling activities,” says CIBAC Rep. Rivera.
The resolution also states a most immediate concern would be allowing around 30,000 to 40,000 workers to congregate in different offices and workspaces of POGOs once they resume operations because according to PAGCOR, there are 60 licensed POGOs in the country with a total of 120,000 workers (31,600 are Filipinos while the biggest chunk are Chinese nationals). Allowing a third of these workers adds to the risk of raising the number of infections as they have been known to live in cramped housing quarters based on past news reports.
It also stipulates that even the mandatory rapid testing for all POGO workers prior to being allowed to work would only add up to the additional burden of testing persons not considered to be “essential” workers in the fight against Covid-19 and will use a large quantity of testing kits that should be given to more vulnerable and priority Filipinos. (PR)