Ongpin divests from PhilWeb, to donate P1B

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BUSINESSMAN Roberto V. Ongpin has divested himself of his 53.76-percent stake in gaming technology firm PhilWeb Corp., in a final bid to save the firm that has been under fire from President Rodrigo Duterte.

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“It is with deep regret that I am hereby informing you that I have decided to divest of my entire holdings in PhilWeb Corp. consisting of 771.651 million shares, which is equivalent to 53.76 percent of the company,” Ongpin said in a statement on Monday.

He pointed to the frustrated efforts by the company to renew its license with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to provide technology and manage Pagcor e-Games cafes.

Duterte last month singled out Ongpin as an oligarch who should be destroyed, and said online gaming must end.

Pagcor later refused to renew PhilWeb’s license to provide technology to Pagcor’s 286 e-Games outlets.

Ongpin then resigned as PhilWeb chairman, and even tried to auction off his PhilWeb shareholdings. He also proposed a drug rehabilitation program to try to soften Duterte, who is waging a war against illegal drugs.

But Pagcor did not budge, leading PhilWeb to propose a mobile lottery venture. The gaming regulator has reportedly refused the offer.

On Monday, Ongpin said P1 billion from the proceeds of the disposal of his shares would be turned over to the government to complement its drug rehabilitation program.

“From the proceeds of this divestment, I intend to donate the sum of P1 billion towards the government’s drug rehabilitation program (which incidentally is the same amount that San Miguel Corp. has pledged to donate for this program),” Ongpin said in his statement.

“For the purpose of the orderly and timely disposal of my shares, I am presently in discussions with several investment banking firms who I intend to retain for this purpose, since I am presently in Europe and will not return to Manila until several weeks from now,” he added.

Through the e-Games outlets, PhilWeb employs 700 personnel. Some 5,000 others are employed by e-Games operators.

After 14 years as a service provider to the e-Games outlets, PhilWeb has remitted over P14 billion to Pagcor, which the gaming regulator has used for various programs.

In 2015, PhilWeb remitted more than P2.1 billion to the gaming regulator and paid over P280 million in corporate income tax, VAT and other taxes.

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