The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) assured foreign workers assigned in information technology hubs that host call centers and other service providers of Philippine offshore gaming operators they will be protected 24/7.
Pagcor Chairman Andrea Domingo said workers would be protected against any threats as law enforcers would be stationed within the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs.
“The POGO concept was put into implementation because we wanted to protect the foreign workers from being harassed,” Domingo said in a televised interview on ANC’s “Head Start.”
“If they are in a hub … with us 24/7, they can always lodge complaints,” she added.
Domingo added that the hubs would also have hospitals and clinics to provide health services.
These facilities are besides the offices of Pagcor, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Immigration (BI) and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).
“If there is an emergency, there will be a hospital or a clinic nearby. It was a concept of providing an integrated area where everything is within human scale,” Domingo added.
The Pagcor chief also assured that operators would be held liable if foreign workers have complaints against their employers.
She clarified that the hubs were not meant to limit the freedom of workers, but were instead meant to offer convenience and protection to foreign workers, who are mostly Chinese.
“This is like a one-stop-shop, the BIR will be there, the DoLE will be there, BI will be there, we will be there 24/7, because I think it is our responsibility,” Domingo said.
China, through its embassy in Manila, has called for the Philippine government’s help in cracking down illegal online gambling operations. It also said POGO hubs might violate the basic human rights of its citizens working in the industry.
Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd expressed his support for the POGO hubs, which he said would make it easier to collect [taxes from them] because they are all in one place.”
The Department of Finance had revealed that around 100,000 foreigners in the country are working for the POGO industry, most of them not paying income taxes, which amount to P2 billion monthly.
The BIR targets to collect P2 billion a month from the withholding taxes of POGO workers. With this amount, taxes to be collected from the industry would hit P24 billion a year — a revenue source that was non-existent four or five years ago, before President Rodrigo Duterte handed over control of these POGO companies to Pagcor.
In a related development, the House of Representatives will exercise its oversight functions to look into the rising number of POGOs near strategic military bases, posing security risks to the country.
In a briefing with reporters on Thursday, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles raised concern over the increase of Chinese working near the country’s “security risk areas.”
“POGO has brought in a lot of money for the Republic of the Philippines, but it has also brought in new concerns,” he said.
“The best here is we can observe it as an oversight function of Congress utilizing the Committee on Games and Amusement, but we must have the Committee on National Defense or at least representatives from the Department of National Defense to give proper context and to bring up, to speed up the members of Congress to the sensitivities in these areas when it comes to the regulation of POGO,” Nograles added.
But the lawmaker said it might be too “premature” to come up with a measure regulating the establishment of POGOs in the country as these just “exploded” in 2017 and Pagcor itself is still coming up with regulations on the their operations.
Pagcor had collected over P12 billion from POGOs, a potential major contributor to the Philippine economy, Nograles added.
Some maps, which have made the rounds on social media, previously bared POGO hubs situated near Fort Bonifacio Headquarters in Taguig City, inside the Mall of Asia Complex near the Philippine Navy Headquarters and near the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, among other locations.
Pagcor is reportedly eyeing the establishment of POGO hubs in Kawit, Cavite and at Clark Freeport in Pampanga, in an attempt to regulate their operations.
Nograles, a former member of the National Defense and Security Committee in the 17th Congress, previously called out Pagcor for issuing 57 licenses to POGO operators, despite its earlier announcement that only 50 were approved and considered operational.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon earlier raised the problem of undocumented Chinese workers, which could bring security threats to the country.
More than 3 million Chinese citizens have reportedly entered the country since Duterte assumed office in 2016 and maintained “friendly” relations with China.
With a reports from GLEE JALEA