MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo questioned Monday calls to re-open mostly Chinese-run Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) while many Filipino businesses are shuttered to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.
POGO hubs contributed only 0.04 percent to the domestic economy, said Robredo, citing the findings of Senate inquiries that also bared alleged anomalies and corruption in the industry.
"Alam natin na maraming katiwalian, malaki iyong social costs sa 'tin dahil sa proliferation ng POGO," she told CNN Philippines.
(We know that there is corruption, social costs are high in the proliferation of POGOs.)
"Parang panget na mensahe na sila pa ang uunahing payagang bumukas kaysa sa mga negosyo na nag-e-employ ng mga Pilipino... Kung binabawalan natin iyong mga para sa Pilipino bakit bibigyan sila ng parang privilege na magbukas?"
(It might be an ugly message for them to open before businesses that employ Filipinos. If we are barring those for Filipino, why are POGOs being given apparent privilege to reopen?)
The POGO industry has been plagued with accusations of crimes, including bribery for the entry of Chinese workers, trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and tax violations, among others.
The government will weigh the risks and benefits from reopening POGOs that give the state cash resources, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said last week.
The operation of POGOs had brought to the Philippines an influx of workers from China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year. Gaming regulators last month barred skeletal workforces at POGO sites as a precautionary measure against the spread of the respiratory disease.