Press Release
March 5, 2020

Statement of Senator Joel Villanueva on the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on POGOs

The P8 billion in collections from POGOs by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) pales in comparison to the P50 billion in uncollected taxes of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the P14 billion in suspicious transactions monitored by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

To say that the economic benefits, which is minimal and negligible at best, are justification enough to keep POGOs in Philippine shores is flimsy and myopic. PAGCOR, the state gaming regulator, cannot simply shift the blame to other agencies for their shortcomings, particularly tax collection.

We remind PAGCOR that it's their responsibility to ensure the entities they regulate comply with prevailing rules and regulations of our country. They are the regulator of POGOs. They should be responsible for the actions of the companies and individuals they regulate. Just look at the number of estimated illegal POGO firms here. Having about 200 illegal POGOs--even more than the 61 PAGCOR-licensed POGOs--is a clear indication that state gaming regulator cannot handle the regulation of POGOs. We're dumbfounded that POGO firms continue to sprout despite the prevailing ban implemented by PAGCOR.

We are aghast by the fact that the P7 billion in net financial flows in the banking system covers a period of three years, an important detail withheld by the AMLC when it testified before to the Senate Committee on Labor last Feb. 11, 2020. Is this deliberate to help cover up the real negative impact of POGOs in our country? We remind the AMLC and our other resource persons that all their statements have been made under oath.

One basic fact is undeniable: allowing the continued operations of POGOs are already causing issues on peace and order situation in the country, as well as our economic stability, among others. Last year, authorities arrested 6,678 illegal foreign workers at legitimate POGO firms. Our Committee also found that immigration officers allowed the entry of 733 international fugitives in 2019. US$447 million in cold cash were allowed to be brought into the country. At least P1 billion have been collected from the Pastillas scam by unscrupulous immigration agents.

The writing on the wall is clear for everyone except PAGCOR. It is high time that PAGCOR act like the state gaming regulator it is chartered

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