The debate on whether Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs should go or stay may be over soon.
That’s because those in favor of letting POGOs go appear to have the upperhand as of now.
The Senate committee on ways and means led by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has recommended permanently banning POGOs in the country.
He was joined by 10 more senators in signing the committee report. He considers this an important step in preventing crimes involving several POGOs: “We are hoping that we reach our goal of maintaining peace in the country, which will lead to the growth of our economy.”
Citing data from the Philippine National Police, the lawmaker said it is clear thieves use POGOs to commit crimes that include human trafficking and various investment scams.
The senators recommended several steps, including urging the executive department to stop the operations of POGOs; the Department of Labor and Employment to look for alternative employment for Filipino nationals employed by POGOs; and the Bureau of Immigration to cancel and revoke work visas issued to foreign nationals employed in the POGO industry.
National Economic Development Authority chief Arsenio Balisacan concurs with the Senate position.
He said POGOs have a high social cost, and the government should encourage quality investments, those that will produce goods and services and not the ones that lead to crimes.
He expressed optimism the country would be able to make up for the lost revenue, as countries like Thailand and Indonesia do not need businesses similar to POGOs.
Then there’s the Department of Finance, which believes POGOs have substantial negative social repercussions that far outweigh the money streams they bring into the Philippines.
While POGO revenues contribute to the government coffers, these come at significant social costs to the country, such as violations of labor laws.
But at least one lawmaker contends that banning POGOs is unlikely to happen any time soon because doing so requires legislation.
Besides, House committee on ways and means chair Joey Salceda believes all concerns raised about POGOs are “issues of law enforcement” and the “solution to law enforcement issues is, frankly, to enforce the law.”
For Salceda, banning an entire business on the basis of issues that law enforcement alone can address is like “burning the whole house down to snuff out the rats.”
And here’s the clincher: “In times like these when finding sources of growth is a challenge, we should be more imaginative.”