Palace on POGO resumption: 'No gambling takes place in the Philippines'

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2020 03:07 PM

The Phil-Asian Gaming Expo features offshore games targeting bettors outside the Philippines. Games can be played on desktop or mobile devices. Photos taken at the SMX Convention Center. July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- Offshore gaming firms are considered part of the business process outsourcing industry, Malacañang said Friday, noting that its local operations do not include gambling on site.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said barring POGOs from resuming operations would violate equal protection under the law given that these are considered BPOs.

"It would be violative of the equal protection clause if POGOs were not to be allowed because POGO is a form of BPO," he said in an interview on ANC.

"No gambling takes place in the Philippines, it's overseas. All that we have here are hardware and the software and people running the hardware and the software for the activity that is conducted outside of the Philippines. That's business outsourcing," he said.

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POGOs employ a largely Chinese workforce.

The country's pandemic task force on Thursday allowed POGOs, mostly based in Metro Manila, to re-open with up to 30 percent of their workforce but the firms have to meet government requirements.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp Chairman Andrea Domingo said POGO operators should pay all tax obligations up to March 2020, before they will be allowed to operate.

Some 31,600 Filipino direct employees also need to be paid from April even though work was suspended due to the lockdown, she said.

In allowing POGOs to resume operations, Roque said Filipinos working in the industry would be the "biggest beneficiaries."

"All the unpaid salaries of Filipinos when we were on ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) and when they were not allowed to operate must be paid as well so the Filipinos in fact will be the biggest beneficiaries here," he said.

The Palace spokesman previously said that should the government decide to reopen POGOs, it would be to raise funds for pandemic response.

There are over 60 POGO license holders and over 200 service providers in the country.