MANILA - Several business groups on Tuesday released a statement supporting the "complete phaseout" of offshore gaming operations in the country.
Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations also known as POGOs boomed years before the pandemic. However, the industry was also plagued by tax evasion cases, undocumented foreign workers, and violent crimes linked to its workers which are mostly Chinese nationals.
"We express our full support for the complete phaseout of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs). The social and reputational costs of government sponsorship of operations that are globally
frowned upon far outweigh any economic benefits," said the joint statement signed by the Foundation for Economic Freedom, Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.
POGO-linked crimes such as money laundering, kidnapping, bribery, prostitution, human and drug trafficking have an "impact on our record of law and order, and our reputation," the statement said.
The business groups have said that "taint of money laundering" diminishes the confidence in our banking system and has put legitimate financial flows at risk.
Even Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said he was in favor of discontinuing POGOs as social costs outweigh economic contributions.
He said POGO revenues declined to P3.9 billion in 2021 from P7.2 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, crimes linked to POGO workers have continued.
During its peak, the industry spurred economic activities in their areas resulting in a boom in residential and office rental as well as food, grocery stores and other commercial businesses.
China has banned offshore gaming and has urged the Philippines to do the same.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, POGOs in the country have declined by up to 70 percent.
So far, there are only 34 POGOs authorized to resume operations, based on PAGCOR records.
The Philippines has already begun deporting Chinese nationals who were rescued from POGOs that were illegally operating in the country.