Illegal businesses have no place in the Philippines and the full extent of the law must be applied on the criminals behind their illicit operations. We must commend our authorities for stopping non-registered offshore gaming operators, or NOGO, that should halt, turn around and go back where they came from. NOGO do nothing but place the Philippines’ legitimate billion-dollar gaming industry in peril.
Last Thursday, law enforcers raided another illegal operation in Metro Manila. Photos revealed a room full of computers and people seated near each other in clear violation of the enhanced community quarantine and social distancing protocols. This is nothing near to how business is conducted by legitimate Philippine offshore gaming operators, or POGO.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Eric Go Yap (ACT-CIS, partylist), congratulated the police for the huge catch. He said, “We commend the authorities for continuously going after these NOGO. This should serve as a warning para sa mga nagsasagawa ng underground operations, pati sa mga magbabalak pa lang. Hindi kayo makakaligtas (This is a warning to those involved in underground operations, including those who intend to do so. You will not escape).”
Rep. Yap further said NOGO are destroying the image of the legitimate POGO, an industry from which thousands of Filipinos benefit from, not to mention our economy that is in dire need of a financial stimulant. He added, “Sinisira ng mga NOGO ang imahe ng mga legitimong POGO companies sa bansa na fully compliant. Maraming kababayan natin ang natutulungan ng industriya na ito sa pamamagitan ng mga fees at taxes nila. Malaking bagay yun ngayon na kailangan natin ng pondo para makabangon mula sa krisis na kinakaharap natin ngayon (NOGO are destroying the image of legitimate POGO companies in the country that are fully compliant. We have a lot of countrymen who benefit from this industry in the form of fees and taxes, a huge factor now that we need funds to rise from the crisis we are facing today).”
The statement of Rep. Yap is consistent with that of President Rodrigo Duterte, who said, “I will assure you under my oath of office as President of this Republic as elected by you, ’yan POGO na ’yan in so far kami dito — malinis ’yan (POGO are clean).” President Duterte continued by citing that around 20,000 Filipinos are employed by legitimate POGO in Manila. As to the financial benefits of having POGO, he calmly explained: “Why? Because it gives us P2 billion a month.”
Chairman of House Committee on Ways and Means, Rep. Joey Salceda, supported the President based on data on his stand regarding the benefits of POGO. In an interview, he said, “The total estimated tax collection is P22.4 billion inclusive of VAT from rent, VAT from workers’ consumption. Second, the contribution to GDP is P94.87 billion.” He clarified that the P22.44 billion was tax collection in 2018 and 2019 alone, broken down as follows: P14.28 billion in 2019, and P8.42 billion in 2018. Notably, collection increased from 2018 to 2019 by 69.7 percent. Had COVID-19 not happened, imagine the increase that could have been realized this year.
In truth, P22.44 billion is still far below the total economic benefits our country has realized, and stands to realize, because of POGO. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. estimates that it shall collect fees amounting to P10 billion per annum, while withholding taxes on both foreign and local workers are estimated to be at P12.25 billion per annum. If we add the rental VAT payments for the offices and housing (around P3 billion), Department of Labor and Employment permits (P6 billion), fees of direct hired agencies (P3 billion), the annual collections from taxes and fees from POGO should be around P34 billion.
We must also consider the spending made by the foreign staff in POGO. It is estimated that they shall be injecting back P33 billion to the economy for their daily expenses. Add rental payments for offices (P10.5 billion), houses (P10.5 billion) and wages to their staff (P16.4 billion), the estimated total contribution of POGO to our country is around P104 billion per annum.
The COVID-19 pandemic has the Philippines grasping at straws on how to get a quick spike in revenue. Experts have forecasted a loss amounting to P2 trillion by year end. POGO are here to help us get back on our feet.
It is disappointing to hear politicians openly oppose POGO when the logical thing for anyone to do is to bring in as much revenue as possible during these trying times. What we have are mere birth pains of a lucrative industry that grew too fast too soon. What is certain is that nothing illegal or immoral is promoted by POGO. In fact, no gaming is done in the Philippines. The true enemy are the illegal NOGO, and the country must declare a war against them. The entire nation must be one in saying: No to NOGO. Stop NOGO.