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Cayetano calls for strict rules on POGOs

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 5/1/2020 Edu Punay
Alan Peter Cayetano wearing a suit and tie: Cayetano calls for strict rules on POGOs © Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez, file Cayetano calls for strict rules on POGOs

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday called for strict enforcement of quarantine rules on Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) that have been allowed by the national government to reopen.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, he said there should be uniform rules on operations of POGOs and other business process outsourcing (BPO) companies during the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.

“There should be no special treatment for POGOs and everyone must follow the same rules. If they are required to house their employees and implement social distancing, they should follow,” Cayetano stressed.

“It’s really in the enforcement. All companies who will be given exemption – including BPO and POGO – please follow the rules,” he appealed.

Cayetano believes that all POGOs cannot be generalized when some of them are known violators, saying the solution would lie in strict enforcement of rules.

Asked if he is in favor of allowing POGOs in the country, the Speaker said.

“Whether there’s ECQ or none, I am against POGOs. I don’t believe in gaming or gambling,” the Born Again Christian admitted.

House Minority Leader Benny Abante slammed the government’s decision to allow POGO operations to resume amid the ECQ.

He said the move was “premature and unwise given our experience with this industry.”

“The reopening of POGOs, according to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), is contingent upon the payment of back taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue and guarantees that all of their 120,000 employees have working visas,” the Manila representative argued in a statement.

“How can we rely on them to fulfill these conditions when there is abundant evidence that these POGO operators have no qualms about circumventing our laws?” the lawmaker said.

According to Abante, congressional hearings have exposed numerous irregularities in POGO operations, such as revelations from the BIR that POGOs have incurred P27 billion in tax liabilities that remain uncollected.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate committee on labor and employment, also expressed strong doubts that Pagcor could enforce the new restrictions.

“How will they strictly enforce that when they cannot even stop the ones operating illegally under quarantine? There are 120 POGOs illegally operating according to Pagcor itself,” Villanueva said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros expressed dismay that the government “chose to let POGO workers regain their jobs rather than our fellow Filipinos.” 

She said Pagcor should explain why it moved to recommend the opening of POGOs while there are vehement opinions and serious concerns against them.

“They’re not paying taxes, implicated in cases of corruption and money laundering and involved in sex and human trafficking,” Hontiveros said. 

She warned the resumption of POGO means mobility for at least 120,000 POGO workers, most of them in the National Capital Region, the center of COVID-19 transmission. – With Paolo Romero

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