MANILA. Finance Secretary Ralph Recto.
MANILA. Finance Secretary Ralph Recto.Photo from DOF

Economic managers recommend total ban of Pogos

THE administration’s economic managers have recommended to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the total ban of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogo) in the country.

“We did write a letter because we were asked to make a recommendation (on Pogos). It's up to the President to make the decision,” said Finance Secretary Ralph Recto on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, adding that the letter was submitted “a few weeks ago.”

Recto said the problem is how the Pogos are being operated.

Over the past months, several illegal Pogo hubs were raided by authorities in Metro Manila and Luzon.

Among the biggest raids were those in Bamban, Tarlac and Porac, Pampanga that resulted in the apprehension of hundreds of foreign workers without valid working documents.

These firms were also tagged as “scam farms” in the guise of Pogo.

Several victims of mauling and sexual abuse were also found in these buildings being occupied by the illegal Pogo companies.

These raids prompted the launch of a Senate inquiry, which later centered to the real identity of suspended Bamban Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo, who according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is one and the same person as Chinese national Guo Hua Ping based on fingerprints.

There were also reports that these Pogos were not paying the current government taxes.

From the over 300 Pogos, only 43 were given renewed license as of June to operate due to the “illegal activities” of the others.

Earlier, National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan reiterated his stand against Pogo even though it may cost the government as much as P20 billion revenue loss.

“It may be a big number, but the cost and particularly social cost of Pogos are quite high,” he said.

“We are trying to position our country as a legitimate place for business where we are trying to attract investors to come, tourists to come and so the least that we want is, to have a reputation. The criminals are still here,” he added.

Balisacan said the Marcos Cabinet has yet to discuss matters pertaining to Pogos.

Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier urged the Marcos administration to declare Pogo as a “threat” to national security.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) chief Alejandro Tengco said they will abide by whatever Marcos’ decision will be.

However, he expressed strong belief that Pogos should just be properly and strictly regulated and monitored.

“Sayang din po ang buwis na kikitain ng Pagcor at ganun din naman ng Bureau of Internal Revenues,” he said, noting that banning Pogos totally is not an assurance that illegal activities linked to it will totally stop. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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