DISMAYED by “lower-than-expected” revenue collection from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO), Senator Win Gatchalian wants a Senate inquiry to measure the economic costs and benefits of POGO operations in the country.
“The government allowed POGOs in the country precisely for the purpose of generating additional revenue. If we are not able to realize this, then we must have a careful review of POGO operations to determine whether they should remain in the country,” Gatchalian stressed.
News reports cited former Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III’s projections in October 2021 that total revenue collections from POGOs for the year 2022 to 2023 could reach P76.2 billion.
However, recent data showed that revenues from POGO operations in the country aren’t likely to even hover near this amount, as revenue collection in the first quarter reached only P1.55 billion.
Also, tax collections from the industry reached only P3.91 billion in 2021 compared to P7.176 billion in 2020 and P6.424 billion in 2019.
“Susuriin natin nang maigi ang pagiging lehitimo ng mga POGO sa bansa. Titignan natin kung advantageous ba ito sa gobyerno. Aalamin natin kung nagbabayad ba sila ng tamang buwis at kung gaano karami ang nakakapasok na ilegal sa bansa,” Gatchalian added in filing a resolution to probe the issue.
He also pointed out that due to the growing incidence of crimes attributable to the POGO industry, both national and local authorities are ramping up their efforts to curb these crimes and maintain peace and order in the country, which entails additional costs for the country.
“Clearly, any economic benefit that we derive from POGO operations should substantially outweigh any social cost that we must bear in exchange for their presence in the country,” Gatchalian said, referring to the reported rise in criminality attributed to POGOs.
The lawmaker cited a recent report from the anti-kidnapping group of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which revealed that the kidnapping of workers from POGOs has so far increased by 25% as of September 2022. Worse, more crimes related to the POGO industry remain unreported, he said.
Sen. Nancy Binay, for her part, said she has “no qualms” supporting the move to ban POGOs if it poses no benefit to the country.
“Is it worth it? Kung hindi sulit ang kinikita mula sa POGO lalo pa’t dumarami ang krimen na konektado dito handa kami magpasa ng batas para sa total ban ng POGO,” Binay said.
Binay cited police reports connecting POGOs to the rise in kidnappings, acts of violence, extortion, and even murder with POGO workers as victims.
As of September 7, the PNP said that it had recorded 27 kidnapping cases so far this year, 20 of which were POGO-related.
The senator said she is looking forward to the hearing of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday to measure the economic benefits of POGO operations vis-à-vis its social costs.
“Dapat pag aralan ang pros and cons ng operasyon ng POGO at tignan kung kung may silbi ba ito sa bansa,” Binay said.
Earlier, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the country can move forward without POGOs as it has already seen a decline in revenue generation.
During the Development Budget Coordination Committee briefing at the senate, he cited how the total revenues from the industry dipped to an estimated P3.9 billion in 2021, down from the P7.2 billion recorded in the previous year. By PS Jun M. Sarmiento & Camille P. Balagtas