Home Economy Marcos asked to ban POGOs given state’s ‘flawed’ regulation

Marcos asked to ban POGOs given state’s ‘flawed’ regulation

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PRESIDENTIAL ANTI-ORGANIZED CRIME COMMISSION

PHILIPPINE senators on Tuesday urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to ban offshore gaming operators in the country given the host of crimes linked to them despite state regulation.

“Some really did not have licenses or permits from the very start but got their foreign managers and workers from authorized Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO),” Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel told reporters in a Viber message.

“Hence, the entire system that allows POGOs (to operate) has become the problem because the system has been ‘gamed.’”

He was commenting on Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto’s remarks that he was open to recommend the ban of these gambling operators, mostly Chinese firms that operate online casinos, to Mr. Marcos.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) earlier said the government could lose P20 billion in yearly revenues if POGOs are banned.

“We tried regulating them, but our experience shows that a POGO is not one that can be regulated,” Senator Mary Grace N. Poe-Llamanzares said in a statement. “It is time to drop POGOs and attract the right investors in the country.”

Last week, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said it was looking into more offshore gaming operations across the country including those that are near key military facilities.

Manila and Beijing have agreed to boost cooperation against transnational crimes including those linked to POGOs after Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, who heads the commission, met with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian on July 3.

Under an executive order issued by ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2017, only Pagcor and three investment promotion agencies — Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone Free Port Authority and Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan — can give a license to online gambling operators.

Philippine authorities have raided POGOs allegedly linked to crimes including human trafficking.

Senators are looking into cases of human trafficking, torture and other crimes committed at POGO hubs after a raid resulted in the rescue of hundreds of workers in Bamban, Tarlac.

Congress under Mr. Duterte passed a law taxing POGOs to legalize them, despite concerns about their social costs. Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked him to ban their operations.

“It is up to the Executive branch if they will continue to allow it or not since it was not allowed by a law to begin with,” Senate President Francis G. Escudero told reporters in a Viber message. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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