Pogos told to pay P1.365 billion and leave
MANILA, Philippines — Saying there was no excuse for the P1.365 billion in debt owed to the government by Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday told these online-gambling service providers to pay up and leave the country.
The senator called out the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for its failure to collect the outstanding debt of 15 Pogos, of which only three were still operating while the rest had licenses that were canceled, suspended or were under review.
“Why were debts by Pogos allowed to get this big? Pagcor needs to go after them. Not only do they owe more than a billion, they have also brought in crime. Pogos, pay your dues and get out of the Philippines,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
She cited the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2020 report, which found that Pagcor had a total of P1.382 billion in overdue receivables as of Dec. 31, of which P1.365 billion was owed by Pogos.
The remaining P16.2 million represented uncollected dues from operators of other Pagcor-licensed traditional or electronic games like poker and bingo.
Based on information from Pagcor’s legal department, only three of the 15 delinquent Pogos were still operating as of Jan. 12. Eight had their licenses canceled, three were under review and one was suspended.
Hontiveros said the delinquent Pogos, once they have settled their obligations, should no longer be granted a new license.
“If even Filipinos who can’t pay rent aren’t given allowance, why are Pogos allowed such prolonged extension? When Pogos first entered the country, we were promised investment and economic activity, but what we got was a myriad of crimes,” she said.
Hontiveros, who led a Senate investigation on the rise of Pogo-related prostitution, cited reports that the National Capital Region Police Office recently arrested two Chinese Pogo employees who abducted two other Chinese.
It was evident, she said, that even in the middle of the pandemic, Pogo-related crimes continued.
“Once travel restrictions are loosened, for sure, it will be business as usual for [Pogo-related crimes]. If we don’t kick Pogos out, chances are these crimes will only multiply,” Hontiveros warned.