The Philippine Economic Zone Authority on Monday criticized two free ports in Cagayan and Aurora for authorizing online gaming operators to locate in IT parks designed for business process outsourcing companies and registered with Peza.
Peza said Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority allowed online gaming companies to operate within Peza-accredited business processing outsourcing establishments.
Peza director-general Charito Plaza said the government was quite liberal in allowing non-Peza locators to inhabit BPO buildings.
She said Apeco included in its charter a clause providing that it could allow its companies to locate in any Peza economic zone, without informing Peza.
Plaza said in the case of Ceza, the decision would be dependent on the Office of the Solicitor General’s opinion if Ceza gaming operators would be allowed into BPO buildings in Metro Manila while the construction of the infrastructure to support online gaming in Cagayan was still ongoing.
“While we were given authority by Malacanang to issue operating permits to Apeco, Ceza and Pagcor, the last hurdle will be the building owners, whether or not they will accommodate online gaming into their premises,” Plaza said.
“We realized this is going to be a political decision, so we sought the guidance of Malacañang. We don’t want to get embroiled in this kind of issue. My earlier pronouncement was that any type of gambling is not a mandate of Peza,” Plaza said.
Plaza said Peza had recently learned that some BPO companies were supporting online gaming operations in payroll, auditing, backend and technical services.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the third party seeking access to operate inside BPO buildings, is the most qualified to be given the permit to operate under Executive Order No. 13, according to Peza.
EO 13, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2017, is a priority measure that aims to curb illegal gambling and any acts similar to it.
Plaza said while gaming operators authorized by Apeco and Ceza were enjoying incentives, Pagcor was not receiving similar perks from the government because it was not registered with Peza.
Pagcor is the sole licensee of Philippine offshore gaming operators. Online gaming firms need to secure such permits from Pagcor for an annual fee of $100,000.
Peza advised these companies to secure Philippine offshore gaming permits from Pagcor. “If the government wants to legalize online gambling, they have to do it properly and orderly. These are the few steps that will help online gaming become legal,” Plaza said.