Makati Mayor Abby Binay today said the city has declared an indefinite moratorium on the issuance of new business licenses and permits to service providers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to rising criminality and prostitution.
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In a statement, the mayor said effective immediately, the city would cease issuing “Letters of No Objection” (LONO) and stop accepting new applications for business permits from POGO service providers.
“We would no longer accept new applications for POGO service providers and crack down hard against illegal activities that are catering to POGOs and their employees within Makati,” she said.
In a statement issued to the press, the mayor cited the “overheating” market for residential and commercial space and the rising criminality and prostitution as major reasons for her decision to stop more POGOs from operating in the country’s financial district.
The influx of thousands of foreign workers employed by POGOs increases the demand for housing and work stations, thus causing property rates in the city to spike. This puts the local property sector at risk of overheating, where its growth becomes unsustainable, she said.
The mayor noted that almost all POGO service providers located in Makati are PAGCOR-licensed and duly registered with the Business Permits and Licensing Office. This has led to the city earning more than P200 million per year in local business taxes from POGO service providers.
“We will always welcome legitimate businesses in the city that strictly adhere to all laws and ordinances, particularly the payment of taxes. And we will always strive to provide these businesses and their employees with a safe environment conducive to business growth and personal activities,” Binay said.
Makati recently experienced an increase in unlawful activities targeting POGO employees, who are mostly Chinese. In the last two months, the Makati city government closed four illegal POGO service providers, two establishments that were used as prostitution dens, and one unsanitary restaurant and catering company. The authorities also seized P2.5 billion worth of illegal drugs from an apartment rented by a Chinese national.
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With the high demand for residential units for POGO employees, there was also an increase in illegal apartment rentals. “These apartments are usually overcrowded with insufficient exits and faulty fire-alarm systems,” she said.
The mayor emphasized that Makati’s decision to impose a moratorium is aligned with the thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to crack the whip against illegal activities related to POGO service providers.
Given its central location and availability of leasable office buildings with high speed internet, Makati is home to as much as 300 POGO service providers that employ thousands of workers, most of whom
are Chinese nationals. These companies provide services like live e-casino video streaming, call center, marketing and other technical support to POGOs.