Duterte has basis to reject POGO shutdown - Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2020 03:55 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2020 11:38 PM

Duterte has basis to reject POGO shutdown - Palace 1
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the oath-taking of the new officials of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) at the Malacañang Palace on February 26, 2020. Simeon Celi, Presidential Photo

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte has enough basis to reject calls to shut down or suspend offshore gambling hubs in the country, Malacañang said Monday, as it insisted that issues hounding the industry can be addressed by the government.

Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President has other sources of information to back up his decision on POGOs, noting that billions of revenue coming from offshore gambling hubs can be used to fund the government's infrastructure programs.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) reported to Duterte that POGO operations are "okay," Panelo earlier said. 

"Apparently, he has enough basis to say not to stop or suspend, apart from PAGCOR's recommendation or report," Panelo said of the President's decision.

"When the President makes the decision it's a decisive one and he has basis to support his decision," he said.

Speaking to reporters Monday night, Duterte said that everything PAGCOR earns from POGOs are "accounted for."

"I assure you, I assure you that every centavo na kikitain diyan sa gaming supervised by PAGCOR, are accounted for. Walang corruption diyan at hindi ako papayag," he said.

Duterte also said POGOs are allowed because the country needs the funds generated by the industry.

"That POGO earns about P2 billion a month. We are not justifying it. We're just saying that it is allowed because we need the funds," he added.

Some senators had agreed to craft a measure that would declare POGOs “illegal” in light of the rising number of crimes linked to the industry—ranging from sex trafficking to corruption.

Over the past few weeks, the country’s offshore gaming industry has been under public scrutiny following a series of revelations in the Senate on anomalies surrounding the business. 

These include Chinese women being pimped to foreigners via social media, bribery involving Immigration officials, and the reported entry of millions of dirty money.

China, through its Manila embassy, has downplayed the crimes linked to its nationals involved in the POGO industry as “isolated incidents,” and assured the public that it is coordinating with Philippine authorities in cracking down on crimes committed by its nationals.

“Individual illegal and criminal cases involving Chinese citizens are only isolated incidents and cannot represent the whole picture of China-Philippines relations," it said.

Panelo claimed that the President immediately seeks an investigation on such issues whenever these pop up, as he explained that anomalies hounding the POGO industry can be addressed.

"All these issues on illegal practices are addressed by the agencies involved...They should function very well so they can stop whatever illegal practices or corruption that are present," Panelo said, citing the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The Philippines in recent years saw an increase in the number of Chinese expatriates who work mostly in offshore gaming operations.