MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) are clean after a Senate investigation showed that there was an influx of dirty money into the country through the online gambling industry.
Duterte made the remark after he stood by his decision to reject some senators’ calls to either suspend or shut down POGOs due to anomalies surrounding the industry.
“I will assure you under my oath of office as President of the republic, as elected by you, yang POGO na 'yan, insofar kami dito, malinis 'yan (that’s clean),” the President said in a speech at the 2020 General Assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Pasay City.
“Laro lang 'yan para sa kanila but it employs something like 20,000 sa Maynila. Walang pera diyan, diretso sa PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) yan,” he said.
Duterte claimed that the government has earned around P17 billion from the industry which can be used to fund government infrastructure projects.
The POGO industry has been criticized following a spate of irregularities linked to its operations, such as Chinese women pimped to foreigners via social media, bribery involving immigration officials, and the reported entry of millions of dollars in dirty money.
Some senators had agreed to craft a measure that would declare POGOs “illegal” in light of the rising number of crimes.
Instead of shutting down POGO operations, Duterte dared lawmakers to pass a measure for better supervision of the industry. He also claimed that everything PAGCOR earns from POGOs is "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.
The Philippines in recent years saw an increase in the number of Chinese expatriates who work mostly in offshore gaming operations.
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.
Chinese law bans its citizens from engaging in "any form of gambling" including online and those that are based overseas but cater to Chinese nationals. Gambling however is regulated in the Philippines.