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Bayan Muna solons seek probe on POGO operations

Lawmakers representing the Bayan Muna party-list have filed a resolution seeking investigation into the proliferation of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country.

In House Resolution 221, Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat directed the House Committees on Gaming and Amusements and Good Government and Public Accountability to look into  the effects of POGOs especially on the local economy, national security and the people in general.

The lawmakers said that while POGOs are expected to generate additional revenues from the government, it is hounded by serious issues particularly on the monitoring of revenues and the "unbriddled" entry of foreigners who eventually work for these operations without valid work permits.

"There are also related serious issues of money laundering, usury or loan sharking, illegal immigration, human trafficking and other crimes," the resolution read.

It was earlier reported that the passports of Chinese workers who were hired by POGOs were confiscated and they were crammed in tiny bedrooms and were not allowed to take meal breaks longer than 30 minutes.

These Chinese workers were hired with the promise of work visa in the Philippines and salaries of up to 10,000 yuan or P70,000 a month.

The resolution also pointed out that the rise of POGOs in the country cause tensions between Filipinos and Chinese workers as well as displacement of livelihood for the construction of POGO operations.

"There is now grave concern that the operation of offshore gambling in the country is not only used by its operators to skirt their national laws, particularly in mainland China, but it is also being used by them to keep the laws of its host country at bay," the lawmakers said in stressing the need for an congressional investigation.

"Moreover, recent concerns over national security cannot also be ignored as POGO hubs are even established near military and naval installations," it added.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) has earlier proposed to transfer Chinese online gaming workers in self-contained communities or hubs.

This proposal, however, did not sit well with the Chinese embassy, as this “may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned.”

PAGCOR chairman Andrea Domingo, in response, said that the Chinese POGO workers will be transferred to these hubs for their own good.

“When we refer to POGO hubs as self-contained communities, what we mean is that these hubs will have all the basic needs of the foreign employees of POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations),” Domingo said.

“[These are] office and residential spaces, food establishments, wellness and recreational facilities, service shops and others,” she added.  —LDF, GMA News