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Roque says ‘POGOs are BPOs’ as gov’t allows reopening under lockdown

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Roque says âPOGOs are BPOsâ as govât allows reopening under lockdown
In POGOs, bets are made by players abroad through service providers based here in the Philippines.
Tory Ho / AFP / File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:46 p.m.) — Online casino centers will partially resume operations to help raise funds for the government’s massive response to the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, Malacañang announced Friday, insisting that the highly controversial industry forms part of the country’s business process outsourcing sector, not the gaming sector.

In a text message to reporters, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Philippine offshore gaming operators, or POGOs, will be allowed to maintain a skeletal workforce of 30% in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

Roque said POGOs, which are mostly manned by Chinese workers catering to punters from the mainland, will be required to disinfect their offices and screen employees for the new coronavirus before they can return to their workplace.

“POGOs are part of BPOs,” Roque said. “Proceeds of government collection will go to COVID-19 expenditures.”

POGOs are not members of IT-Business Process Association of the Philippines, the umbrella industry group of BPOs.

The government has allowed BPO workers to go past checkpoints to their offices during the community quarantine that started March 17, but only if shuttle services are provided by their companies. In some cases, firms also give free lodging to employees. 

In POGOs, bets are made by players abroad through service providers based here in the Philippines. These providers install the IT systems necessary for the games to be held. The Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) only collects licensing fees from these providers which in 2019 amounted to P5.73 billion, down from P6.11 billion a year ago.

On top of license fees, BIR started slapping a 5% franchise tax on POGO local providers in 2017, a direct result of public clamor to tighten watch on offshore gaming believed to be populated by illegal Chinese workers. Income taxes were also charged on POGO workers, and some firms were shuttered due to alleged failure to pay taxes.

“Even with the partial resumption of POGO operations, we will put premium on the safety of their employees, and the gaming industry as a whole,” PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo said in a statement.

“While we recognize their huge contributions to nation-building, and their great viability as a funding source in these difficult times, we still have to practice extra precaution in striking a balance between health and economic benefits,” Domingo added.

The finance department collected P6.9 billion on these levies from POGOs last year, nearly triple the P2.4 billion raised in 2018.

That said, revenues collected from POGOs still fall below those collected from brick-and-mortar casinos where PAGCOR has direct supervision. In labor, data on POGO workforce remains hazy, with the tax bureau estimating about 120,000 employees, while the labor department put the figure at a lower 86,537 as of June 2019. — with Prinz Magtulis

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE OFFSHORE GAMING OPERATORS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 5, 2021 - 9:01pm

A thread of major news, developments and government pronouncements related the extended community quarantine across the country. Real-time updates about the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines are available in this live blog. (Main image by AFP/Ted Aljibe)

August 5, 2021 - 9:01pm

The province of Laguna and the cities of Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro will be placed on lockdown until the middle of August, Malacañang announces.

"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to place Laguna, Iloilo City and Cagayan de Oro under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) beginning Aug. 6 until Aug. 15, 2021," presidential spokesman Harry Roque says in a statement.

Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro have been under the strictest quarantine classification since July 16. — The STAR/Alexis Romero

June 11, 2021 - 4:28pm

The Department of Health reports an additional 6,686 COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to 1,300,349.

  • Active cases: 61,345 or 4.7%% of the total
  • Recoveries: 3,190, pushing total to 1,216,497
  • Deaths: 196, bringing total to 22,507
August 3, 2020 - 7:14am

President Rodrigo Duterte approves the recommendation of Cabinet members to place Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under modified enhanced community quarantine.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the new quarantine measures will be imposed starting midnight of August 4 and will stay in place until August 18.

June 29, 2020 - 12:32pm

The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 imposes a moratorium on the transit of locally stranded persons in Western Visayas, Cebu island, Mactan, Eastern Visayas and Caraga.

"Wala na po silang lugar para mag-quarantine," IATF spokesperson Harry Roque says in a virtual briefing. 

(They have no place to undergo quarantine anymore.)

June 28, 2020 - 4:29pm

The Department of Health announces 485 "fresh" COVID-19 cases on Sunday, June 28.

Another 168 are "late" cases, or "released to patients four days ago or more."

Most of the cases are still from the National Capital Region, with 245 "fresh" and 111 "late."

Central Visayas accounts for 120 "fresh" cases and 11 "late" ones. 

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