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POGO service providers: No Chinese worker has COVID-19

A group of online gaming service providers for the controversial Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) on Friday said that none of its Chinese workers had contracted the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Accredited Service Providers Association of PAGCOR (ASPAP) said that “due to strict precautionary measures adopted by ASPAP members during the pandemic’s early stages, none of its local and Chinese workers have tested positive for COVID-19.” 

The group made the statement in response to POGO critics’ claim that online gaming service providers expose people to high risks of infection.

Senators Joel Villanueva and Risa Hontiveros earlier said the government is taking high risks which may backfire as it allowed the partial opening of POGO.

"Lahat ng eksperto nagsasabi na hindi po ito essential sector," Villanueva said.

"Sakaling magkaroon ng outbreak ang industriya at dito nagsimula sa POGO sector, sino po bang gobyerno ang gagambalain nito? Kaninong salapi po ba ang gagastusin na naman para i-address ang problemang ito?" he added.

For her part, Hontiveros said the resumption of POGO means mobility for at least 120,000 POGO workers, most of them in Metro Manila, the center of the COVID-19 transmission.

This after the government allowed the partial reopening of POGOs even amid the enhanced community quarantine being implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that only 30% of the total workforce will be allowed to report for work they follow precautionary measures.

ASPAP said its members will comply with the strict guidelines issued by the government as preconditions for allowing them to resume partial operations.

These include deep cleaning and disinfection of facilities, testing of Filipino and foreign workers for COVID-19 prior to deployment, payment of workers’ salaries and taxes to BIR, remittance of the P350-million minimum guaranteed fee to PAGCOR, proper social distancing and other measures.

While its members are awaiting PAGCOR’s official communication before operating at 30% capacity, ASPAP said its priority is to start cleaning and disinfecting all workplaces.

POGO licensees, firms that operate the online gambling business, tap service providers to provide technical services such as live-streaming of games to their offshore, usually Chinese, clients.

ASPAP also welcomed the government’s classification of their sector as business process outsourcing (BPO) firms.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said POGOs are classified under the BPO industry, which the government has allowed to resume operations.

The group said its members are typical BPOs that provide POGO with “BPO services like call center operations, telemarketing, systems and hardware support, as well as ‘live dealer’ video streaming and other online games.”

“To stress a point – POGOs are offshore gaming operators, while POGO service providers are typical Philippine-based BPO companies that are purely paid service fees,” ASPAP said. -NB, GMA News