Any kid who grew up in the early 2000s would certainly know the Sony PlayStation Portable, or PSP. This revolutionary portable gaming device rocked the gaming world with its top-notch graphics and exciting games. First introduced in 2004, the Sony PSP was a success as it sold 80 million units worldwide within the span of a decade, netting billions in revenue. But with the entry of Apple and Samsung smartphones, sales dwindled down and the Sony PSP was phased out in 2014.
Around the same time the Sony PSP was introduced, illegal online gaming started in the Philippines. In 2003, illegal online gaming sites began to pop up on the Internet, including those clandestinely operating from the Philippines.
These outfits for illegal online gaming were loosely regulated by the Philippine government, had no clearance from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), and remitted nearly nothing in taxes, despite raking in millions in revenue.
Fast forward to 2016, the Duterte administration stepped in with the firm resolve to stop illegal online gaming. In February 2017, Executive Order (EO) 13 was issued to clarify the definition of online gaming by prohibiting the participation of anyone in the Philippines, but allowed persons outside Philippine territory. This brought about the resurgence of the Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) service providers, or PSP.
The Philippines’ version of the PSP is also a monumental innovation and success, having raised billions in revenue for the government. PSP are legitimate business entities by virtue of the issuance of EO 13, in line with PAGCOR’s charter, Presidential Decree 1869, as amended. In fact, no gaming takes place in the Philippines since all the elements of gaming are performed and executed abroad, which makes it no different from online shopping, online banking, online booking and online food deliveries. Betting and pay-outs are done through legitimate financial institutions outside of the Philippines.
PSP provide back-end support to POGO overseas in the areas of marketing and customer relations, technical support, accounting and database management, similar to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). There being hundreds of employees in PSP, medical emergency clinics must be set up and with physicians and nurses ready to attend to their health and safety needs, in compliance with the Labor Code, Occupational Safety and Health Standards, and the other relevant regulations issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).
Income from PSP showed steady growth through the years. From P73.72 million in 2016, revenues increased significantly to P3.12 billion in 2017; P6.11billion in 2018; and P5.73 billion in 2019. Prior to lockdown, PSP already contributed P1.80 billion in regulatory fees alone.
The rise of PSP hit a snag with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all businesses, PSP found themselves in a bind on how to adjust and cope with this difficult situation. Medical clinics of PSP were utilized to provide immediate medical attention to their employees. With the government’s announcement that private institutions shall shoulder its own testing, PSP implement their own testing policy to ensure a COVID-free workplace once they are allowed to resume business. PSP have also been active in donating personal protective equipment and test kits to hospitals and local government units.
The pandemic is an opportunity for authorities to weed out the undesirables in the industry, the illegal PSP, known as non-accredited offshore gaming operators (NOGO). Admirably, police have busted NOGO operating in dark and dingy motels. These are necessary steps in legitimizing the industry and efforts must be continued to put a stop on these illegal NOGO.
Rightfully, the societal concerns on PSP deserve our attention. These may be due to the cultural differences in our lifestyle and that of the foreign workers, similar to what is experienced by our modern-day heroes, the overseas Filipino workers (OFW), in their county of work. Foreign workers are in our country to make a living and train Filipinos who can later make careers in PSP. The records of PAGCOR now show that PSP employ 31,556 Filipinos, a number that stands to increase with the continued development of the industry.
It is the intention of PSP to create a stable and professional business ecosystem for its companies and employees. We now have the Accredited Service Providers of PAGCOR (ASPAP), the group of legitimate and compliant PSP, that promotes the corporate social responsibility of PSP and will serve as the job openings portal for Filipinos nationwide. This is also meant to jumpstart the lives of displaced OFW in the Philippines and support the administration’s Balik Probinsya program.
PSP are complying with the guidelines set by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Once cleared, PSP shall resume operations in compliance with health protocols the Department of Health. A return to its full operations shall bring about another boom in the economy that is badly needed now with the excessive government spending made to battle COVID-19. President Rodrigo Duterte has voiced out his support for PSP and the entire country should come together — Philippines supports PSP.