THE government will have to decide whether it can “root out” the bad to preserve the good in the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) industry.
This was what House Committee on Labor and Employment Chairman and Rizal 4th District Representative Fidel Nograles had to say after his committee’s first meeting on Wednesday on an inquiry, in aid of legislation, to discuss the labor and employment policy of the POGO industry and all its stakeholders amid calls to ban the industry.
“The whole government will have to look long and hard at itself to see whether it has the capacity and the will to properly regulate the industry so that the bad can be rooted out and the good preserved,” Nograles said.
During the hearing, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the country stands to lose P64.61-billion in direct economic contributions or 0.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) if POGOs is discontinued.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) meanwhile said that the POGO industry is expected to generate approximately 20,000 additional jobs in addition to the current 16,736 Filipinos employed in the industry from January to June 2022.
The additional jobs were created mostly from food and beverage services, farming and fishing activities, retail, trade, technical and administrative support services, transportation, and real estate.
The industry, however, has also been linked to crimes such as kidnapping, murder, human trafficking, and prostitution. Besides the non-remittance of illegal POGOs, there have also been links to financial crimes, with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) reporting that P14 billion out of the P54 billion worth of POGO transactions from 2017 to 2019, or 26%, were deemed “suspicious” transactions.
“The massive contribution of POGOs to our economy is undeniable. Yet, this should not be the sole factor in our decision on whether to ban or continue, as there are social and even financial costs as well to consider,” Nograles said.
The lawmaker said it would take more than one meeting to be fully apprised of the facts surrounding the industry.
“The debate, however, will continue and possibly will never go away,” he added.
“Ngunit makakaasa ang taumbayan na pipilitin ng Kongreso na makapaglikha ng polisiya na magtataguyod ng kapakanan ng bansa at ng mga Pilipino,” the solon also said.