Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda appeals to critics of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to give it chance, saying the country stands to lose 70,000 jobs opportunities for Filipino workers.
Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, made the appeal amid mounting calls to get rid of the controversial POGOs.
Salceda said in a statement that a “blanket ban on a specific sector, when there are laws that already exist to prevent abuses in any kind of business, will be seen as arbitrary.”
“That will hurt our reputation with investors not just in the gaming sector. We will be known as a country that burns down houses just to kill the rat inside,” he added.
According to Salceda, it would be in the best interest of the government, which is in dire need of revenues to boost the pandemic-hit economy, to “keep POGO operations within POGO-specific zones that are ring-fenced from the rest of the country.”
“New licenses will be in these zones, and existing licenses will be allowed only to complete their leases.
Any offshore gaming that operates outside such zones will be considered illegal,” he proposed.
Salceda maintained that banning POGOs that pay billions of pesos in tax revenues is not the solution to alleged unabated crimes, since the country is replete with laws to deal with such infractions.
He stressed that the POGOs can be kept within controlled and heavily regulated spaces. “We have a potential global advantage in that we recognize them [POGOs] as taxable entities, unlike other countries that consider them a gray area.”
He also cited the economic cost or impact of a total POGO ban, in light of the substantial amount it contributes to government coffers, and the commensurate job that it generates for the Filipinos.
A sudden downturn in office occupancy at this point will kill jobs and at least P18.9 billion in rental income from offices, and P28.6 billion in housing rent. We stand to lose 70,000 Filipino jobs that are directly
hired by POGOs at least,” he warned.
Aside from these revenues, Salceda said POGO employees spend about P950 million daily in Philippine stores and their commissaries spend P11.4 billion annually from Filipino caterers. He added that legitimate POGOs occupy some 1.1 million square meters of office space.
“Our policy cannot be to give an entire industry up just because there are bad actors. All industries have bad actors. My stand is for the government to wield the full weight of the law,” he stressed.
“The solution to illegal POGO is not to close down all POGOs. If anything, that will only create an entire underground sector,” Salceda cautioned. And just like smuggling inside ecozones, the focus should be to “fight smuggling harder, (and) not to close down all ecozones,” he stressed.