Press Releases

Statement on calls to close down POGO operations

July 9th, 2024

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda

Secretary Recto’s reasoning is correct: If they are not engaged in illegal activities, and if they pay their taxes, then licensees should be allowed to continue operating. My stance has always been this: close down the bad ones, as you would in any industry. The evidence is this: PAGCOR under the Marcos administration has been succeeding in stamping out illegals, and the remaining licensed operators are proving more tax compliant and cooperative with law enforcement.

Since PAGCOR began cracking down hard on illegal POGOs under President Marcos’s administration, tax and regulatory fee collections have increased dramatically from fewer licensees. We are cutting out the weeds so that the flowers can grow.

Before the PAGCOR’s stricter rules were put in place, there were 158 licensees paying just P2.99 billion in fees. Now, there are just 87, and they pay PAGCOR 5.17 billion in fees.

The difference is starker on the tax side. At the height of POGOs in 2019, there were 298 licensees that paid 6.42 billion in total taxes. Now, with just 87 licensees, internet gaming licensees paid 10.3 billion in taxes.

The legal sector is now also becoming less and less Chinese and more Filipino. Filipinos now account for as many as 25,000 direct POGO employees, with Vietnamese nationals now also outnumbering Chinese nationals. Among indirect hires, PAGCOR cites indirect industry estimates that put the number of indirect offshore online gaming workers at close to 100,000, of which roughly 65,000 are Filipinos and 30,000 foreign nationals

If you close down the whole sector, good players and bad, you put to waste all the efforts of the Marcos administration to crack down on the bad players.

In tobacco, we get help from the tax-compliant players to find illicit trade. The existence of a legal, well-regulated sector is a tool for fighting illegal operations. If not for tips from legal operators, a number of the raids conducted on illegal operations would not have been made.

If you close down the whole sector, the aliens, the existing POGO clientele, and the hardware and investments already made will have nowhere to go but the illegal sector. It’s going to be a disaster we are ill-equipped to address. Our law enforcement does not have the resources, the capabilities, or even the training to infiltrate and apprehend an expanded black market for gaming.

Here’s my suggestion to my friend, Secretary Recto, and the economic team: Let’s plow back some of the increased internet gaming tax revenues on improved law enforcement, especially in intelligence gathering and infiltration. The best time for it is the upcoming budget season, when we return from our session break.

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