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PAGCOR: Over P2B worth of unpaid dues of shuttered POGO licensee can't be collected anymore

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) won’t be able to collect the over P2.2 billion receivables from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) firm that already closed shop, PAGCOR chief Alejandro Tengco said Monday.

Tengco was referring to the over P2 billion of PAGCOR collectibles that the Commission on Audit (COA) reported in June 2022. 

“The amount was not collected in the past administration... it was a P2.2 billion receivables from a POGO licensee during the last administration. During the pandemic, nawala na lang po parang bula iyong POGO [the POGO disappeared], it closed shop, they ran away,” Tengco told the House appropriations panel during Day 2 of the deliberations of the proposed P5.768-trillion budget for 2024.

“I had an exit conference with COA about a month ago, and I made a manifestation to the supervisor of COA in PAGCOR and there is no way we can collect that said P2 billion anymore,” Tengco added.

Tengco said that when he assumed office last year, he deployed a team to look into the case of the disappearing POGO firm, and their probe failed to track the individuals involved in the said POGO licensee as they are all foreign nationals who already left the country.

“Our investigation revealed the officers of the licensee already left the country, and that such licensee did not have a local incorporator. That is why during the last exit conference with COA, we asked them, kung maaari po sana, stricken off na iyong receivable na iyon kasi wala po talagang magagawa [if it's possible, that receivable be stricken off],” Tengco said.

Tengco said the said licensee only operated for eight months in the country.

“Hindi na po mahahabol [We could no longer go after them]. We were told they are out of the country already,” he said.

The PAGCOR chief, however, said the firm has already been blacklisted by the government regulator and their license has been revoked.

Tengco said that PAGCOR has already placed at least 30 POGO licensees under probationary status, and that they have to reapply on or before September 15 or else their licenses will be revoked.

He also told the committee members that PAGCOR already launched a crackdown on licensees’ service providers in violation of Philippine laws, given that the old policy allowed each POGO licensee to have 10 service providers.

“We have definitely leveled up our monitoring and collection efforts and were able to close down around 150 service providers so far,” Tengco said.

Tengco also said that from zero fines and penalties during the last administration, PAGCOR already slapped fines and penalties to 70 licensees of overseas gaming operations for the last six months, totaling US$1.5 million.

Likewise, Tengco said PAGCOR already suspended six POGO licensees in 2023, including  one in Clark that was allegedly involved in scam and human trafficking activities.

“We are really trying our best to make sure all licensees follow our rules and regulations,” Tengco said.

“Nobody is also skipping in paying dues because if they do, we immediately forfeit their US$300,000 cash bond with us, and they have to replenish that immediately to continue operations,” he added. —KBK, GMA Integrated News