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The Pogo quandary

The call to rid the country of the scourge of Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) has been gaining traction in the early days of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

After turning a blind eye to the staggering social costs of hosting gambling operations and the tens of thousands of mostly Chinese nationals working in Pogos, which were tolerated and even justified by the previous administration, the gaming operators have finally been facing heightened opposition, especially after a recent wave of kidnappings involving mainly Chinese individuals linked to the industry that is illegal in their own country.

The opposition to Pogos is currently loudest in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III has urged Malacañang to heed calls for a total ban. “The continued operation of Pogos in the country is dangerous. It is akin to harboring would-be criminals and gangsters that an eventually cause massive disruption and peace and order in the country,” he said.

Sen. Cynthia Villar also backed their scrapping, recalling that Chinese President Xi Jinping had earlier warned the government against hosting such entities. Sen. Grace Poe noted that the social costs of this online gambling business catering to gamblers in mainland China outweigh the economic gains.

Even Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno has openly supported ending Pogos also because of the social costs associated with the industry. He noted that total government revenues earned from it had fallen to P3.9 billion in 2021 from the previous year’s P7.2 billion.

To add context to its lack of benefits to the nation, aside from government earnings, it must be noted that most Pogos hardly employ Filipinos.

The fate of the Pogo industry is now up to Mr. Marcos, who must make the decision on whether or not whatever pros it can offer do outweigh its cons. Just like the task of providing the country that is still dealing with a global pandemic with a full-time Health Secretary, the Pogo quandary is another leadership duty that cannot be delayed further. As the mettle and quality of the president will be tested by how he handles the Pogo question, Filipinos who continue to wish for the best for this country hope that our president makes the right choice very soon.*

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November 2022
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