The Senate begins its investigation into the operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) today, Oct. 3, to determine its economic costs and benefits, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sunday.
At the same time, the Department of Justice said the Bureau of Immigration will cancel the visas of more than 48,000 Chinese nationals employed by POGOs whose licenses have been revoked, which will allow them to voluntarily leave the country instead of being deported.
Gatchalian, who said he was frustrated by lower-than-expected revenue collection from POGOs, said the government allowed them into the country precisely for the purpose of generating additional income.
“If we are not able to realize this, then we must have a careful review of POGO operations to determine whether they should remain in the country,” Gatchalian said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said canceling the visas of Chinese nationals instead of deporting them was “a more cost-efficient and humanitarian approach.”
“Instead of deporting them, the cancellation of alien visas would simply allow the Chinese nationals to voluntarily exit the country within a non-extendible period of 59 days,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The Bureau of Immigration is set to cancel 48,782 alien visas and is verifying whether these Chinese nationals are still in the country.
“To be clear, it is only after the Chinese nationals refuse to leave the country within the allowable period that summary deportation will be resorted to,” the DOJ said.
Some 372 Chinese nationals are already in custody after being arrested by the NBI or PNP. They are set to be deported.
“The department is aware of the effects this operation may have on the economy. However, given the many reports of murder, kidnapping and other criminal activities, the social cost of keeping illegal aliens heavily outweighs the projected effect it will have on the affected industries,” the DOJ statement said.
“Even so, the department will be sure to coordinate with the national economic team to counter any negative effects on the country,” it said.
Former Department of Finance (DOF) secretary Carlos Dominguez III projected in October 2021 that total revenue collections from POGOs for the year 2022 to 2023 could reach P76.2 billion. However, recent data showed that revenues from POGO operations in the first quarter reached only P1.55 billion.
Also, tax collections from the industry reached only P3.91 billion in 2021 compared to P7.176 billion in 2020 and P6.424 billion in 2019.
Gatchalian also pointed out that due to the growing incidence of crimes attributable to the POGO industry, both national and local authorities are ramping up their efforts to curb these crimes and maintain peace and order in the country, which entails additional costs for the country.
“Clearly, any economic benefit that we derive from POGO operations should substantially outweigh any social cost that we must bear in exchange for their presence in the country,” Gatchalian said, referring to the reported rise in criminality attributed to POGOs.
Senator Joel Villanueva also cited the need to re-examine the country’s policy on online gambling operations to determine if the economic benefits outweigh the social costs.
He said he filed Senate Resolution No. 225 precisely to investigate this matter, in the wake of rising criminal activities that involve POGOs.