POGOs might have to go, Marcos says so

·2 min read
President Ferdinand Marcos is considering outlawing POGOs amid the spate of kidnappings that targeted Chinese citizens.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr speaks during a change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, suburban Manila, Philippines on August 8, 2022. Calls to pull the plug on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) got louder amid the spate of kidnappings that targeted Chinese citizens. (Photo by EZRA ACAYAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is looking into the possibility of declaring Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) illegal, his lawmaker sister confirmed in a radio interview with dzBB on Sunday (September 18).

“If we cannot regulate (POGOs), then we better stop them. There are now abductions and killings,” Senator Imee Marcos said. “What’s happening is already sordid and gruesome. They’ve been here for years, and obviously, we could not regulate them.”

This was consistent with the opinion on finance secretary Benjamin Diokno, who said on Thursday (September 15) that POGOs in the Philippines had a social cost.

“It has a reputational risk, because why are they going to the Philippines? Discontinue na sa China, discontinue ng Cambodia (They’ve discontinued in China and Cambodia). Why are they going to the Philippines?” the finance chief said. “Maybe because we are loose, we’re not strict on our rules, so meron tayong (we have) reputational risk.”

Marcos added, “It’s embarrassing before the international community that all these are happening – even if they involve Chinese nationals – in our country.”

In the days between Diokno’s statement and Marcos’ interview with dzBB, POGO facility Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc. in Pampanga City was shut down by police, where 43 Chinese nationals were rescued for being forced to work there.

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) also showed that 15 out of 29 kidnapping cases this year alone were related to POGOs.

POGO revenues smaller than expected

The finance secretary also explained that revenues collected from POGOs have continuously plummeted over the past years. Revenues from POGOs were at its highest in 2020 at P7.2 billion, and shrunk to P3.9 billion in 2021. In the present day, only P3 billion has been collected from POGOs despite having a projected income worth P32 billion.

Imee Marcos, meanwhile, cited different figures, saying that projected POGO revenues were supposedly around P50 billion, but a chunk of the revenues go to corruption.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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