Senate bill outlaws POGOs

May 24, 2024 Camille P. Balagtas 95 views

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian filed a bill seeking to outlaw operations of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) amid mounting outcry for such a move as criminal activities linked to the industry continue to rise.

Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 2689 which seeks to repeal the taxability of offshore gaming in the country as provided by Republic Act 11590, the only law that legitimizes POGO operations.

RA 11590 was signed into law on September 22, 2021 by then President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The main goal is ultimately to outlaw and prohibit offshore gaming operations in the country,” emphasized Gatchalian, chair of Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

He explained that while the POGO industry has brought in revenue and jobs, the country has grappled with a surge in POGO-related crimes, raising concerns about the overall impact on the industry.

He cited several incidents that have come to the Senate’s attention including a police raid in May last year involving Colorful and Leap Group, a POGO hub located at Clark Freeport Zone where authorities rescued a thousand of foreigners and over 100 Filipinos. A separate police raid the following month at Xinchuang Network Technology in Las Pinas accounted for about 2,700 suspected victims of human trafficking.

Another police raid in October last year was conducted against Smart Web Technology in Pasay City, which led to the discovery within its premises of a torture chamber, an aquarium-style viewing chamber, and massage parlors allegedly being used for prostitution.

In March this year, a police raid at Zun Yuan Technology in Bamban, Tarlac was prompted by a complaint filed by a Vietnamese national for alleged human trafficking and serious illegal detention.

According to Gatchalian, various atrocities attributed to the industry have generated public outcry for a ban on the industry.

He disclosed that a cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Department of Finance (DOF) in 2022 showed that POGO operations generated economic benefits worth P133.7 to P144.5 billion annually due to foregone potential investments and tourism revenues, alongside costs associated with enforcement and immigration.

This resulted in a net cost of about P3.3 billion to P14 billion annually, equivalent to 0.01% to 0.06% of gross domestic product or GDP, respectively.

“This means that POGO operations have brought more harm than good, as the economic costs greatly outweigh the benefits derived from such operations,” he said.

“Beyond the financial impact, the rise in human trafficking and online scams linked to POGOs is a moral failing we must address,” he added.