Duterte eyes regulating number of POGOs in PHL

President Rodrigo Duterte is considering regulating the number of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in the country. In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN, the President believes imposing restrictions on POGOs would reduce the high cases of corruption, extortion, and kidnapping linked to the operations of online gaming.

“It’s a game for the overseas Chinese, but the thing is, this kind of, especially gambling, breeds so many things: corruption, increase in crimes of extortion and kidnapping,” Duterte said in an interview aired by dzMM on Monday.

“If you add more to this number, presently operating, you will not be able to police them all. So you have to set a number for that. It cannot be in every town and city about so many POGO games going on,” he added.

There are around 60 POGOs operating in the country, according to the data from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

On Nov. 23, 2019, Duterte imposed a three-day deadline for delinquent POGOs to settle their tax liabilities after the Finance department estimated PHP2 billion in withholding taxes from foreigners working in the gaming sector.

From January to August 2019, the Bureau of Internal Revenue collected PHP1.63 billion in withdrawing taxes from POGOS.

Meantime, records from the Philippine National Police-Anti-kidnapping Group showed that there were six POGO-related kidnappings from January to November 2019.

In October 2019, the National Bureau of Investigation rescued 91 Chinese and four Filipino women from a karaoke bar in Makati City that served as sex den for Chinese clients.

This prompted Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas to file House Resolution 604 in December last year, seeking a congressional inquiry on the proliferation of prostitution rings catering to POGO workers.

Despite the incidents, Duterte in September 2019 said POGO operations will continue because “it is good for the country.”

Duterte, in his latest remarks, said he had already received a commitment from China during his recent meeting with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that Beijing would not interfere in the Philippines’ policies on POGOs.

“We had dinner just a few of us,” he recalled.

“The ambassador said if you must do it because the law is the law and that if there is a need to deport, arrest, then they’re keeping their hands away from all these things. (They said), ‘You have the prerogative to do what you want to enforce the law.’ In fairness to the Chinese government, they understand,” Duterte added. PNA.GOV.PH