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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Gov’t still to decide on total POGO ban, says Balisacan

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Socioeconomic planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Tuesday said that cabinet secretaries have yet to seriously tackle proposals to impose an outright ban on all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs).

In a Palace briefing, the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) chief explained that key officials will eventually have to weigh POGOs’ fate in the country against the administration’s focus on generating jobs.

“No, we haven’t really discussed it in terms of, you know what I mean, at the level of the economic managers. I’m not sure if there are any other meetings happening, but I believe our focus should be on generating high quality jobs,” Balisacan said.

Calls to outlaw overseas gaming activities have been gaining momentum around the country following consecutive police raids on POGO enclaves in Tarlac and Pampanga where authorities uncovered a long list of illegal activities.

Finance Secretary Ralph Recto previously said that he is inclined to recommend to President Marcos that POGOs be closed down.

The finance chief explained said his support for the removal of POGOs was prompted by the discovery of various illegal activities around this shady industry.

“Honestly, I’m not into gambling at all, and I’m not a fan of POGOs either. But if they’re playing by the rules and paying their taxes, then it’s all good with me. But there are definitely a lot of problems surrounding the POGO industry, ” he said.

While other officials debate its pros and cons, several local governments have unilaterally banned POGO activities within their borders.

The Batangas City Council was the latest among them when it went ahead and passed a resolution prohibiting all POGOs amid growing security concerns around such operations.

In an interview on Tuesday, Councilor Nestor Dimacuha, chairman of the Committee on Laws and Rules and author of the resolution, said the supposed economic benefit of POGOs in terms of job creation, property sector earnings, and revenues for government are far outweighed by their social cost.

Furthermore, he stated POGOs are repeatedly being linked to crime syndicates engaged in human trafficking, kidnapping, robbery-extortion, money laundering, online scams, and espionage.

He, however, assured that the city government will still consider granting franchises to other gaming operations that have valid permits from PAGCOR.

Dimacuha pointed out that while the city remains “very friendly to foreigners visiting the area… let us take into account recent controversies. I hope that what is happening in other provinces will not happen here.”

For his part, Batangas governor Hermilando Mandanas expressed his support to the resolution.

“We have no POGOs in Batangas. All [resolutions] of component cities, like Batangas City, cannot be enforced without Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” he said.

POGO operations were earlier banned in Valenzuela City, the entire province of Bulacan, among other jurisdictions.

On Sunday, Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando said in a radio interview that he wants POGOs to stay out of his province.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian earlier said that local government officials must be held accountable for failure to properly monitor POGOs operating within their respective jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Senate President Francis Escudero said suspended Bamban Mayor Alice Guo is bound by law to attend the July 10 Senate hearing on POGOs.

In an interview, Escudero noted that once a court, the Senate, or Congress has issued a subpoena, the subject is already under compulsion of law.

“This means, it’s not her discretion if she will attend or she will not attend,” Escudero said.

“So I do not support her answer or her lawyer’s answer that it is their decision or call,” he added.

“And if they will not attend, it is already in the hands of Sen. Risa (Hontiveros) if she will request to issue a warrant of arrest to force them to show up in the Senate hearing,” he noted.

The Senate President said he would sign the arrest warrant if Hontiveros requested it.

Furthermore, Escudero said Guo needs to present a valid medical certificate in case her legal counsel wants to insist that she is suffering from trauma caused by the grilling from previous hearings.

He explained that there should be sufficient health reasons to allow her to skip the hearing.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline Gov’t has yet to decide on banning POGOs — Balisacan

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