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Duterte satisfied with POGO revenue; unlikely to end operations –Palace

President Rodrigo Duterte was unlikely to stop Philippine offshore gaming operations in the country, despite operators' alleged involvement in money laundering activities, Malacañang said Sunday.

In a radio interview, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said government revenues from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) could be used to fund measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019).

"He [Duterte] will not suspend it nor will he stop it," Panelo said.

According to Panelo, Duterte was satisfied with the report of the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) on the revenues generated from POGOs.

"Ang sabi niya [Duterte] sa akin kahapon, maganda yung report ni PAGCOR head. Maganda raw ang report sa kanya. Kailangan talaga natin ng pondo galing diyan. Marami tayong projects na kailangan natin ng pondo. For instance, for the salaries of the nurses, for teachers, marami," Panelo said.

"In fact, meron na namang tayong problema sa coronavirus. Pwede ring pagkunan yan," he added.

PAGCOR earlier said that it earned P8 billion from regulatory fees imposed on two percent of POGOs' gross gaming revenues.

From 2017, when the PAGCOR started regulating POGOs, revenues had reached P18 billion to date.

POGOs have also provided employment to 19,000 Filipinos.

But the Anti-Money Laundering Council also said that at least P14 billion worth of POGO transactions were suspicious—a matter which Panelo downplayed.

"Yung mga problema diyan sa operations, yan ay magagawan ng paraan. All you have to do is to implement established laws and regulations," Panelo said.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue also said that only 10 out of 60 registered POGOs pay taxes.

Despite the supposed benefits of POGOs to the country, the industry has been marred controversial, particularly on its effects on the local economy, national security, and its social cost to the Filipino people.

In a  House of Representatives resolution, the Bayan Muna party-list group said that while POGO is expected to generate additional revenues for the government, it was hounded by serious issues, particularly over monitoring its revenues and the "unbridled" entry of foreign workers without valid work permits.

It was further argued that the rise of POGOs in the country had increased tensions between Filipino and Chinese workers, as well as displaced the livelihoods of communities in to order to make room for the construction of POGOs.

In the Senate, a hearing was also conducted to probe the alleged prostitution cases related to POGOs in the country. —Erwin Colcol/LBG/DVM, GMA News