Senator Risa Hontiveros thumbed down on Wednesday the proposal to allow Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) and its service providers to resume business in the face of the coronavirus disease 2019 threat.
In a teleconference with reporters, Hontiveros reiterated that the industry should in fact be shut down for good.
"There's no good reason para maging clingy pa tayo sa kanila at panatilihin pa sila dito sa Pilipinas," she said.
"'Yung annual so-called revenues mula sa mga POGO— legal na POGO lang ang kaya nilang singilin at habulin—those annual revenues from the legal POGOs ay mas maliit pa kaysa sa unpaid taxes nila," she added.
According to the senator, the unpaid taxes of POGOs that are registered with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) amount to around P50 billion.
She further pointed out that the social cost of the presence of the industry in the country—considering the alleged entry of illegal Chinese workers, prostitution, bribery, and money laundering—is greater than the benefits.
POGO operations have been suspended since March, pursuant to the guidelines banning online gambling amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
But on Tuesday, PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo said she has written President Rodrigo Duterte recommending the resumption of POGOs "provided that all health protocols such as social distancing, wearing of masks, frequent and proper hand washing are observed."
This was after ACT-CIS Representative Eric Go Yap, chair of the House committee on Appropriations, called for the lifting of the suspension of POGO operations to "give our tax collection a much-needed boost."
According to the PAGCOR, the POGO industry has remitted more than P20 billion since it began in 2019.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and other senators also expressed opposition to the resumption of POGO operations amid the health crisis, emphasizing that this is a non-essential industry. —Dona Magsino/LBG, GMA News