Philippines to padlock POGOs defying pandemic rules

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2020 09:50 AM

Philippines to padlock POGOs defying pandemic rules 1
A Pogo worker is seen posing in a booth during the Phil-Asian Gaming Expo held at SMX Convention Center on July 12, 2019. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Authorities will "close and padlock" mostly Chinese-run Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) if they violate lockdown rules aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Thursday. 

"Special teams" of law enforcers will check the quarantine compliance of POGOs that regulators last week allowed to partially resume operations, said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año. 

"If they will violate, then we padlock and stop their operation," he told ANC. 

Critics of the reopening of POGOs cited alleged crimes linked to the industry, including bribery for the entry of Chinese workers, trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and tax violations, among others. 

Police will increase presence at POGO hubs and have set up a special desk to receive POGO industry-related complaints, said Año. 

"We have addressed that particular concern," he said of POGO-linked crimes. 

The government deems POGOs as part of the business process outsourcing industry that was allowed to reopen in areas under lockdown.

For POGOs to operate again with only 30 percent of their workforce, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the companies must get tax clearance and test its employees for COVID-19. They must also regularly disinfect their workplaces and provide housing and shuttle services to employees, he added.
 
The Philippines currently has 60 POGO license holders and over 200 service providers. 

POGO hubs contributed only 0.04 percent to the domestic economy, Vice President Leni Robredo said earlier, citing the findings of Senate inquiries that also bared alleged anomalies in the industry.