MANILA — A senator is leaning towards supporting calls for a possible ban on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators due to rising crimes related to the industry.
According to Sen. Grace Poe, the social costs of POGOs are "too high".
She noted a string of POGO-related abductions and decreasing tax collections from the industry.
"These are questions that we really have to consider before we make a categorical decision on whether we should ban them or not," she told ANC's "Headstart" on Wednesday.
"But my leanings now, unless otherwise they could improve during our hearing with the [Senate] Ways and Means [Committee] next week, is the social costs are a bit too high."
For Poe, the country should consider "creative ways" to generate income.
"Hindi naman kasi puwede na porket kumikita tayo sa isang bagay 'yun na lang ang susuportahan natin. Isipin din natin, 'Ano ang kapalit nito?'" she said.
(We cannot support something just because we earn from it. We should also ask, 'What are we exchanging for this?')
Poe also dismissed concerns the total ban would only drive POGOs underground.
"There will always be underground economies particularly in gambling," she said.
She added, "As much as we need the income, I don't think we are desperate enough to say that 'Never mind the cost. Let's just go with this."
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said earlier this month that revenues from POGOs peaked in 2020 at P7.2 billion but fell sharply last year to P3.9 billion.
"If you ask my personal opinion on this, let's discontinue with the POGO because of the social cost," he told a Senate hearing.
But David Leechiu, chief executive of Manila-based Leechiu Property Consultants, estimated the Philippine economy could lose P200 billion in rental revenue and salaries if POGOs were expelled.
"It's one of those drivers of the economy that we should not take for granted," he told AFP.
"Yes, there are problems but what business does not have a problem?"
A Senate panel will set a hearing next week on the economic impact of banning POGO firms in the country.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse