Palace: No 'exodus', just fewer POGOs around
In this February 5, 2020 file photo, guards check the temperature of Chinese POGO workers in Parañaque City.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file
Palace: No 'exodus', just fewer POGOs around
Alexis Romero ( - September 24, 2020 - 5:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday denied that there is an exodus of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) even as it maintained that the gambling entities should pay the right amount of taxes to continue their operations.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that some POGO and service providers have started cancelling their lease contracts due to lack of business. The departure of foreigners working for POGOs would also affect real estate prices and state revenues, the finance chief added.

Dominguez made the statement as several businesses are struggling to stay afloat due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has dragged the Philippines into a recession or two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

"First, there is no mass exodus. What happened was about 20 plus out of 60 complied with the requirement of the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue)," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing. 

"So it's not an exodus because the policy of the Department of Finance is clear — pay up otherwise you cannot continue POGO operations here."

Roque said only one gaming firm has left because of suspicions by mainland China that it is funding demonstrators.

"But it's just one company. I think the word 'exodus' is not correct," the Palace spokesman said.

Roque said "many" POGOs have failed to pay their franchise tax, a development that he said would please those who are against the operations of the gaming firms.

"So for now, more or less, there are 20 POGOs remaining. Initially, we had 60 plus licenses issued by PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.)," he said.

POGOs have been linked to illegal activities like money laundering, human trafficking, kidnapping, prostitution, bribery, and tax evasion.

President Rodrigo Duterte had claimed that POGOs are "clean" and contribute billions to state revenues.

Officials, however, have given assurances that the government would not condone any unlawful activity associated with the gaming firms. 

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