ALTHOUGH lawmakers agree that the possible sale of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for US$10 billion should be carefully studied, they are torn on whether or not it will truly bring benefits to the government.

Representative Amado Bagatsing (fifth district, Manila), who chairs the House committee on Games and Amusements, called on San Miguel Corporation vice chair Ramon Ang to formalize his US$10-billion offer for the agency.

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“Ngayon lang tayo nakarining ng 10 billion dollars so mind boggling pero as always, nasa dyaryo lang yun eh...siguro mas maganda kung ifformalize ni Mr. Ang ang kanyang offer because maraming conflicting statements coming from allegedly partners niya,” Bagatsing added.

According to Ang, Pagcor would be worth at least P450 billion, or $10 billion, based on its 2009 gross income of P29.78 billion and the minimum 15 times premium value.

Bagatsing admitted having mixed emotions over the matter although he has been very vocal about his position of privatization.

He was among those who opposed the privatization of oil company Petron Corporation during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos.

He said Pagcor, being state-owned, should remember its social responsibility to other offices who rely on its profit; for instance, the Philippine Sports Commission.

On the other hand, the unsolicited proposal of Ang also sent a good signal to investors abroad, added Bagatsing.

Amid the proposal to privatize Pagcor, the games committee will be seriously discussing the bill of Representative Danilo Suarez (third district, Quezon), which seeks the creation of a National Gaming Commission that will regulate casinos, lottery, and cock fighting.

Meanwhile, Representative Anthony Golez Jr. (lone district, Bacolod) thinks there is no need to sell Pagcor since it is obvious that it is bringing in profits for the government.

"Kung ano yung binebenta ng gobyerno, yan ang nalulugi, non-performing assets kumbaga pero ang Pagcor ay isa sa mga yaman ng ating gobyerno," Golez said.

Representative Alfredo Benitez (third district, Negros Occidental), a former owner of Bingo Bonanza, maintained his position on the matter, saying that the regulation duties should be left to the government. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)