“Resolve issues first, allow operations later.”
This sums up the position of House Minority Leader Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. regarding Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) resuming operations in the Philippines.
“Gambling, in all shapes and forms, is not essential. It is a vice.”
The lawmaker on Wednesday cautioned government against allowing POGOs to reopen given the issues involving the industry, such as non-remittance of revenues and non-payment of taxes of those working in the controversial enterprise.
“In hearings in the House and the Senate, we have been told that one, we cannot even properly keep track of and document POGO workers; and two, that we have not been able to collect taxes from them,” lamented the solon.
“If that is the case, then allowing them to resume operations ostensibly so the government can earn revenues to help battle the COVID-19 outbreak makes little sense,” stressed the solon.
Aside from unresolved issues regarding the POGO industry, Abante said that government would be sending conflicting signals to the public regarding the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) should it allow POGO employees to return to work.
According to Abante, “the government has suspended work in the whole of Luzon to keep people from going outside to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but has allowed essential industries like food production, manufacture, and sales to continue.”
“The operative word here is ‘essential;’ it is my view that POGOs are not an essential industry needed by the country as we work to overcome the outbreak. Gambling, in all shapes and forms, is not essential. It is a vice––one that any country can do without, whether it be the Philippines or China.”
Abante pointed out that “many of our countrymen want to go back to work because the ECQ has deprived them of their livelihoods, and we tell them that we cannot allow them to work for now for the good of the public’s health.”
“Kung hayaan natin makabalik ang POGO sa gitna ng krisis na ito, tatanungin nila, bakit ang mga foreigner na ito pwede magtrabaho, kami hindi? That is a conflicting message government cannot send, not while it adopts more measures to strictly enforce the ECQ.”