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NICA: Permanent ban on POGOs will lower human trafficking, other crimes in PH

Permanent closure of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) will reduce the cases of human trafficking, kidnapping, and other related illegal activities in the country, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) said Monday.

The NICA announced its position on POGOs through Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara during the Senate plenary deliberations on the agency’s P1.932 billion proposed budget for 2024.

“Their position is that the closure or permanent suspension of POGO and its related illegal activities will help reduce human trafficking, forced labor, kidnapping and other crimes in the country,” Angara, who defended the budget of the agency, said.

“The Philippines will no longer be a hub of an industry that is prohibited in other countries. Additionally, it will resolve the issue of not being aware of the number of Chinese nationals in the country as their entry is facilitated by corrupt personnel,” he added.

The position was made after Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III asked NICA’s role in addressing human trafficking cases in the Philippines.

According to Angara, NICA is monitoring human trafficking cases in the country while the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government are among the other government agencies which have direct mandate to address the problem.

Asked why human trafficking still thrives in the Philippines, Angara said: “They (NICA) say some [human trafficking cases] may be related to POGO. Some may be because of the economic situation of persons involved. That’s some of their reasons for trafficking.”

The Department of Finance earlier said that the Philippines should do away with POGOs, citing social and reputational risks.

National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan also said he would recommend to President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. the banning of POGOs in the country.

Earlier, the Senate committee on ways and means recommended the immediate expulsion of POGOs from the country in a bid to help maintain peace and order and sustain economic growth.

In Committee Report No. 136, the panel called for the adoption of a Senate resolution urging the Executive department to cease the operations of POGOs.—AOL, GMA Integrated News