ZURICH, Switzerland — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has said his administration is looking into whether allowing Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) is a good idea for the country, amid reports of killings and kidnappings linked to their operations.
In a briefing with Palace reporters shortly before flying back to the Philippines, Marcos Jr. said it may not be worth allowing POGOs to continue in Philippines if their operations come at a social cost.
“It’s not a huge part of our economy. And if it’s adjudged that there is a social cost, it might not be worth it. The cost might not be worth what they’re paying in taxes anymore,” the President said.
Marcos Jr., however, clarified that those involved in crimes are usually from illegal POGO operations, which authorities have addressed.
“The problem are the illegal ones, not the legal ones. The legal ones pay their bills, pay their taxes and you know those --- ‘yung mga video na nakikita natin nagpapatayan na --- ‘yun mga illegal ‘yun. Kaya ang dami na natin pinaalis na illegal. Nagsara kami ng mga illegal POGO at dineport (deport) lahat nung mga kanilang tao.”
The Chinese government earlier issued a crackdown on the operations of POGOs, as gambling is illegal in China.
“If China wants us to do that, we’ll see what the arrangement could be ‘di ba,” the President said.
Some POGOs have been accused of evading taxes and driving up property rates while not providing job opportunities.
About 34 POGOs are licensed to operate and around 130 support services are registered, according to the Philippine gaming regulator.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in September last year he wanted online gaming operators banned. He said revenues from POGOs peaked in 2020 at P7.2 billion, but fell sharply in 2021 to P3.9 billion.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian in October last year said legitimate POGOs have an estimated tax leakage of P1.9 billion, citing the discrepancy of gross gaming revenue reported by the BIR and PAGCOR from January to August 2022.