POGO Shutdown backed by Former Finance Chief

Posted by DG, Date posted at November 27, 2022

We’re all aware of how it has been a rife situation with POGOs and the community that is connected to this industry. There has been a clamour from all fronts to have them removed from the country and an opposite movement to keep them. The advantages and disadvantages that can be drawn from such changes also seem to balance things out that there lies a plateau on where the next steps are.

The latest financial expert to place his stake in this is former Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary, Margarito “Gary” Teves during the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing. This was conducted on Wednesday, the 23rd of November, wherein the session was focusing on POGOS and its pros, and cons on impacts to the social and economic costs should they get booted out or permitted to stay.

Teves clearly stated that he supported calls of terminating the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), but balances this with his stance of having the government implement a phaseout mechanism and to ensure alternative employment opportunities.

“Pogo-related cases of kidnapping human trafficking and unfair labour practices, do not only threaten social stability but also put Philippine economic recovery at risk,” said Teves.

He cited that while POGOs are estimated to have contributed P53.1 billion to the Philippine economy in 2022, their continued operations risk the country’s bilateral relations with China, with exports valued at approximately P600.8 billion pesos in 2021 alone. The Philippines might risk losing P16.7 to P 26.2 billion in foreign direct investments due to Pogo-related crimes.

Key: Keep things balanced

Teves points out data from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which showed that out of the P54 billion worth of Pogo transactions from 2017 to 2019, 26 percent were deemed suspicious transactions, which puts the credit rating of the Philippines at risk.

You might also want to read: 23,000 Jobs and Up To ₱61 Billion in Taxes Lost Once POGOs Leave

Despite the risks and disadvantages he cited that were enough reasons to push forward in enacting a total ban on POGOs in the country, he also emphasized the evident need to balance things out, especially on the transition that will happen as POGOs are discontinued. He said, “loss of sources of employment at this time would increase the economic burden of Filipino workers.”

He proposes that government should first provide other employment opportunities via the continued implementation of the “Build, Build, Build Program”, working in upskilling, reskilling, financial and other assistance for the 23,000 Filipinos currently employed by POGOs.

Teves responded to Senator Win Gatchalian’s query of whether the country will experience an immediate effect once POGOs are discontinued by saying the government should consider a phaseout mechanism for POGOs, “in terms of employment revenues and benefits — you’re correct that based on those questions [Sen. Gatchalian] there will be an immediate impact if this is implemented immediately without a phaseout mechanism and alternative sources of employment and revenue. If the government decides to implement a phaseout mechanism, it “has to be continuously conveyed to investors and governments. That has to be very clear at the top diplomatic level that this is the direction of our policymakers.”

You might also like to read: POGO Phaseout Supported by Business Groups

This is the third hearing conducted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee concerning Pogos to determine if it should be discontinued or whether or not Pogos can operate crime-free in the country following a string of Pogo-related kidnappings.

PAGCOR’s response

The session also brought a spotlight on Pagcor’s lack of ability to track specific locations of individual gamblers. The only way the independent auditor hired by Pagcor can guess which countries use Pogo gambling services is by looking at the currencies being used.

PAGCOR further revealed that the third-party auditor only specifies currencies used on POGO gambling services, specifically from the following 24 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Euro (as a currency, Pagcor did not specify which country), United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, the United States, Vietnam and South Africa. Currently, the highest-used money is the Chinese Yuan at 47 percent while the US Dollar came a close second.  

PAGCOR further cited, “We do not have data on the possible risks that any policy changes in any particular territory may impose because we do not really look at our revenues from a territorial standpoint, meaning from the data, we get Chinese currency, but we do not attribute that to a particular place only.”

This is currently the third hearing by the Senate Ways and Means Committee wherein it is investigating Pogos to determine if it should be discontinued or if Pogos can operate crime-free in the country following a string of Pogo-related kidnappings.

Hopefully, there will be a balanced resolution in this matter. After all, legitimate POGOs do help the community involved in its operations flourish and thrive. Any takes on this folks? Just comment down below and let us know what you think, suggestions, insights and reactions. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon!

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