Bato eyes 'POGO zone' to prevent crimes, raise revenues

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2023 06:51 PM

MANILA -- Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Friday said he is eyeing to give the Marcos Jr. administration a free hand on how it would deal with the country’s problems with the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

Dela Rosa chairs the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, which jointly investigated POGOs’ revenue contribution to government coffers in contrast to social costs.

“If the government wants to stop POGO, no problem. They can stop POGO anytime. Kung gusto na ipagpatuloy ang POGO, then we have to strictly regulate POGO operations,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa’s statement was seemingly in contrast to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, who previously said that he is for the total banning of POGO sin the country.

Dela Rosa said he plans to finalize his stand on the matter after their final hearing next week, which will center on POGO-related crimes.

Crimes related to POGOs happened because authorities failed to guard them due to limited access to their facilities, Dela Rosa said.

One step that he is considering to recommend is to house POGO companies in one area similar to export processing zones, so they can be monitored by government agencies closely.

“Gagawa tayo ng POGO zone. Kung wala na yung social cost na sinasabi nila na anchored primarily on POGO-related crimes. Mako-control yan kung isang lugar na lang sila. Matututukan ng security forces ang pagse-secure sa kanila, hindi na sila gagawa ng krimen. At matataasan na natin ang revenue,” Dela Rosa said. 

The issue about PAGCOR’s contracted third party auditor must also be fully clarified, the senator said.

Majority of Filipinos believe that the presence of POGOs in the country is "harmful," Gatchalian said Thursday, citing a survey conducted by Pulse Asia.