President Duterte politely turned down the request of Chinese leader Xi Jinping to ban offshore gaming in the Philippines, citing the loss of jobs and government revenues if the so-called Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) are shut down.
This was disclosed by President Duterte on Wednesday (September 4), as he narrated to reporters some of his discussions with the President of China in their meeting last week.
“I decide that we need it. Marami ang mawalan ng hanapbuhay (many will lose their jobs). Anyway it’s government-controlled. At this time, wala talaga ako magawa, marami ang nagugutom (I have no choice; many people are hungry),” Duterte said.
The POGO’s main customers are Chinese nationals. These casinos became controversial as they now also employ around 130,000 Chinese, prompting some officials to say that this now becoming a national security issue.
Beijing, on the other hand, asked Manila to halt the POGOs’ operations, as they have now become magnets of extortion, kidnapping and illegal recruitment involving Chinese nationals. The Chinese foreign ministry said last month “online gambling is a most dangerous tumor in modern society.”
But Duterte said his decision will “benefit the interest of my country”.
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) said revenues from POGOs reached almost P4 billion this year. This does not count the multiplier effect in the economy, like real estate boom and employment. Analysts say POGOs will overtake the business process outsourcing industry as the main driver of property growth in the country.
Last Month, Pagcor suspended the grant of licenses to new POGOs, as it addresses some issues.
But Duterte also warned the POGOs that they will be dealt with accordingly if they are found to be remiss in paying their taxes and other dues. “If you make the mistake of not remitting, even if you’re a gambling lord, I don’t care who you are.”
The Bureau of Internal Revenue said some P200 million in taxes were collected from the foreign employees of POGOs. If 100,000 of them would not pay their taxes and other dues to the government, foregone revenues could reach P24 billion annually.