Several lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Wednesday filed a bill seeking to ban and declare illegal the operations of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).
House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. led the filing of the proposed Anti-POGO Act, which seeks to prohibit the facilitation of any offshore gaming through any means or device within Philippine territory.
“It is therefore declared by the State that ‘Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations’ or ‘POGOs’ conducted within the Philippines have increasingly become a social menace and a source of unimaginable corruption,” the bill read.
“It has made a mockery of our anti-money laundering, immigration and tax laws. It has been a source of untold criminal offenses and heinous crimes related to the conduct of such operations,” it added.
The bill also seeks to prohibit the acceptance of any form of betting for purposes of offshore gaming operations; creation of a POGO hub in the Philippines; establishment of a gaming laboratory; and possession of gaming paraphernalia.
Under the bill, licenses of foreign-based operators, local gaming agents, POGOs, service providers for purposes of offshore gaming operations shall be deemed withdrawn, revoked, or denied.
The Department of Labor and Employment shall be prohibited from issuing any work permit to any person for purposes of offshore gaming operations.
The Bureau of Immigration shall also be prohibited from issuing any visa or alien employment permit for offshore gaming operations in the country.
The bill seeks to create an inter-agency task force on POGOs, which shall have the exclusive power and function to administer and implement the provisions of the proposed law. It shall be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Justice.
The national government has allowed 30 percent of POGOs’ workforce to report for work during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) in the country.
ECQ, which is more stringent than GCQ, is implemented in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, except Aurora; Calabarzon; Benguet; Pangasinan; Iloilo province; Cebu province; Bacolod City; and Davao City.
GCQ, meanwhile, is imposed in all low-risk and moderate-risk areas nationwide.
Roque said the partial resumption of POGOs’ operations is necessary to augment the government’s funds to address Covid-19.
“Ang pinakaimportante, lahat ng kikitain sa POGOs na ito ay pupunta po sa gastos ng gobyerno para naman dito sa Covid-19 response natin (The most important is all revenues from POGOs will be used to boost the government’s funding for Covid-19 response),” he said.
Around 60 POGOs have secured licensed to operate from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR). Around 218 POGO service providers in the country have 108, 914 foreign employees.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said revenues from POGOs could be used as additional funds for Covid-19 response.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue is targeting the collection of at least PHP2 billion a month from POGOs. (PNA)