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23,000 Filipinos to lose jobs if POGOs are banned, says group

Some 23,000 Filipinos would lose their jobs if Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are banned from the country, the Association of Service Providers and POGOs (ASPAP) said on Monday.

According to Saleema Refran’s report on “24 Oras'', ASPAP spokesperson Atty. Mike Danganan said that POGOs employ more Filipinos than foreigners.

“There are more than 23,000 Filipinos who will lose decent and well-paying jobs if the government will shut down legitimate POGOs and their service providers. What is at stake here is not only their means of livelihood but also their support for their families,” said Danganan.

ASPAP’s membership includes 16 PAGCOR-licensed POGOs and 68 service providers.

Filipino POGO worker Nelia Leonardo said the Mandarin she learned when she was a caregiver in Taiwan allowed her to become a translator at a POGO.

“Ngayon po mas malaki po talaga, nag-range po ng P35,000. Aside pa po diyan mayroon pa po akong hazard pay, allowance at saka free accommodation, free food, at transportation,” Leonardo said.

(My salary now is bigger. It ranges up to P35,000 aside from the hazard pay, allowance, free accommodation, free food, and transportation.)

Another Filipino POGO worker Nestor Abdulla said he prefers to be a shuttle driver for POGO workers instead of working abroad.

Abdulla said he is worried for his family, especially now that there have been calls to suspend the operations of POGOs.

“Sa amin po mababa lang ang pinagaralan, wala na pong ibang matatakbuhan kundi ibang bansa. Hindi ka makapasok sa mga kumpanya sa Pilipinas kasi kulang ka ng pinag-aralan, walang tatanggap sayo. Sa ibang [bansa] naman kami, maiiwan naman ang mga anak namin,” he added.

(For us who have little education, we have nowhere else to run but to go to other countries. You can't enter companies in the Philippines because you lack education, no one will hire you. If we go to another country, our families would be left behind.)

ASPAP said they were ready to cooperate with authorities to stop illegal POGO and criminal activities.

“These nefarious operators have been either or have been the source or reason for the recent spate of criminal activities which has given the industry a bad name. ASPAP is worried because the impact is really affecting the lives of many Filipino employees,” Atty. Paul Bongco, another spokesperson of ASPAP, said.

For its part, the Department of Justice said that they would coordinate with ASPAP.

“We love to coordinate with them because I believe they would have more information. The President would have to settle direction and the Congress would also have to pass legislation if gusto talaga nilang i-ban ‘yung POGOs,” DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said.

“But as of now, the DOJ is here to crack down on the illegal POGOs. Those who have no licenses, and the criminal element,” he added.

The Philippine government last month announced plans to deport at least 2,000 POGO workers by October, in line with the crackdown on undocumented foreign workers in the country.

Estimates by the DOJ indicate that there are some 40,000 POGO workers in the country, despite the termination of the license to operate of 175 POGO firms.

The DOJ earlier said there are 372 Chinese nationals in custody set to be deported.

However, their deportation did not push through last week as the Chinese government is still verifying their identities. — Mel Matthew Doctor/DVM, GMA News