Philippines – The October 19th, Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on Labour and Employment on the effects of POGOs on employment saw Sarah Lynne Ducanes, assistant secretary for the Policy and Planning Group at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) strongly voice out NEDA’s official stance:
“Not because of POGO per se, but the fraudulent activities [associated with it] can put us in that [black] list or has put us in that list. That can affect this entire economic environment that we’re trying to create to attract investments both local and foreign,” she said.
This was in response to Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting who asked if banning POGOs would hurt the country economically.
She continued, “So far, Your Honor, our preliminary estimates show that POGOs generate a net cost to us in terms of just considering the effect on tourism, the potential effect of Chinese tourism on the country, and the estimates that we have.”
She does recognize that there would be some losses centering more on office rental revenues as an immediate figure. She cited that with the POGOs not around, conditions will be easier for tourists from China, which has a ban on POGOs, to visit the Philippines. She also digressed that POGOs were affecting the Philippines’ reputation and had a negative effect on potential investors. The boost in tourism will eventually make up for the losses.
You might want to read: POGO Phaseout Supported by Business Groups
Salceda’s counterpoint to NEDA’s statement
House Representative, Joey Salceda presented facts and historical data that such a conclusion by NEDA can be considered wholly speculative. Salceda currently chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means and has an overview of critical data connected to POGOs being phased out completely.
He pointed out that Chinese tourists are far fewer in the past years largely due to China’s strict and stringent policy against outbound travel while the pandemic and the virus itself are still affecting the environment. The difference in the total tallies of Chinese tourists was triggered by these policies and not at all by POGOs being here in the Philippines.
He explains, “It’s very clear here that there is no difference if you have a POGO or not. China really has not allowed tourists to get out because of their zero-Covid policy.”
He further proved his point by presenting a table showing that Chinese tourist arrivals in 2021 went down by 99.4% compared to figures in 2019 or even earlier — in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data reflected that the Philippines had 1.74 million Chinese tourist arrivals in 2019 but starkly down to only 10,000 in 2021. Comparing this to Cambodia, the Chinese tourist arrivals in the same period decreased by 99.0% — from 2.36 million to 20,000. He also cited Dubai’s predicament. The decrease was 96.3% — from 990,000 before the pandemic to 40,000 during the Covid19 pandemic years. Bringing the global count of 94.5% decrease — from 154.6 million to 8.50 million.
Salceda emphasized, “See, I think it’s quite speculative to say if we look at these, the Chinese outbound tourists. Cambodia who is supposed to be a friend of China or Dubai, how come they also had the same 95% [decrease]?”
“In short, China has been actually implementing a no-tourist policy… So it’s the same 99.4%. So I think it’s highly speculative for NEDA to relate [a possible increase in Chinese tourist arrivals. And in fact, the Chinese ambassador was quick to clarify the statements that were attributed to some of our leaders,” he said.
He continued to show figures on countries like Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam — countries that have a thriving casino industry largely due to Chinese gamblers.
“It’s very clear here that there is no difference if you have a POGO or not. China really has not allowed tourists to get out because of their zero-COVID policy,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
And on that note, dear readers, clearly there is some guesswork on how strong the stance of NEDA is regarding how to address a situation when POGOs are totally removed from the country. House Representative, Joey Salceda has keenly been keeping tabs on the complete picture of how POGOs are and what the role of legitimate POGOs have in the Philippines.
On my side of the story, I’d keep the legitimate POGOs going. They do help thousands of families carry on and eventually get what they aspire for as they continue to have a decent living. Gambling is a balance of the environment and one’s own personal decisions. Eventually, the government has to step in when the balance teeters unfavorably to questionable and illegal entities.
What’s your take on this folks? Will tourism be able the stronghold and the solution to POGOs phased out completely? We love hearing from you and hope to see your thoughts down below!