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Nograles urges ‘empathy, fairness’ for POGO workers
HOUSE committee on labor and employment chairman and Rizal 4th District Rep. Fidel Nograles has urged the government to “practice empathy and fairness” in dealing with workers of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
This, as the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is underway to deport some 480,000 illegal POGO workers.
“We have to achieve balance in our policy, and practice empathy and fairness toward the illegal POGO workers who have come here to find employment. Tandaan natin na marami rin tayong kababayan sa ibang bansa na inihihingi natin ng maayos na pagtrato,” Nograles said.
“Let us show the world that we are not a country that demands what it cannot practice in its own shores. We have always been a country known for our humanity. Kinupkop natin ang mga lumikas sa giyera at iba pang sakuna. But I’m confident that Sec. Remulla is fully aware of this, as he was the one who said we have a potential humanitarian crisis at hand,” Nograles added.
The Harvard-trained lawyer also reminded that the Philippines is bound by international statutes as a signatory of United Nations (UN) conventions on labor, and is thus obliged to extend protection and support to foreign workers in the country.
The lawmaker also reserved judgment on whether POGOs should be dismantled or allowed to stay in the Philippines, especially as doing so would also affect the livelihood of thousands of Filipinos employed in the sector.
According to the Association of Service Providers and POGOs (ASPAP), its member firms employ a total of 23,118 Filipinos, 11,766 of whom are direct hires and 11,342 indirect ones, on top of the 17,130 foreign nationals who are legally employed in the gaming sector.
He said that before jumping to conclusions, all stakeholders must be given the chance to air their side.
“Masyadong masalimuot ang isyu na ito para magpasya agad. Pakinggan muna natin kung ano ang magiging benepisyo sa bansa, o kung magiging perwisyo ba, kung may pag-asa bang maayos at mapasimple ang polisiya, saka tayo gumawa ng desisyon na ikabubuti ng bayan natin,” the lawmaker said.
This would entail subjecting all POGO firms to a labor inspection to check on their compliance with labor laws, Nograles said.
The government would have to check occupational and health standards in these firms to ensure that these are not “dens of abuse,” he added.
Having a clearer picture of POGOs’ compliance with the country’s laws, including the payment of taxes, would help in crafting a better policy regarding the industry, Nograles also said.