The chairperson of the House committee on appropriations on Wednesday said the P30 million to P50 million disaster resilience fund that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) will provide each legislative district is crucial in ensuring the safety and survival of the country’s disaster-prone areas.
“This Pagcor provision, totaling between P7.29 billion to P12.15 billion for the country’s 243 legislative districts, is particularly significant as the country again braces for two weather disturbances, Tropical Depression Gardo and Super Typhoon Hinnamnor,” Ako-Bicol Rep. Elizaldy Co, the panel’s chair, said.
“We thank Chairman Al Tengco for agreeing to provide evacuation and disaster resilience buildings. This amount will help each district cope with typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions that frequent our country,” Co added.
At the congressional budget hearing, Tengco, the newly-appointed Pagcor chief operating officer, reported to the House Committee on Appropriations that the gaming regulator’s income last year was P35.48 billion. For the first half of the year, Pagcor’s income already stands at P26.7 billion.
Recognizing that disaster preparedness and recovery should be the top priority in disaster-prone Philippines, Pagcor in 2019 allotted P3.5 billion for the construction of multi-purpose evacuation centers and started building safe havens for 77 disaster-prone areas nationwide. Maricel V. Cruz
To date, 15 evacuation facilities have been completed in various parts of the country.
According to the 2020 World Risk Index, the Philippines ranks 9th in the world as the most affected country by extreme weather events. Every year, the country experiences almost all forms of disasters.
It will be recalled that in January 2020, before the pandemic surged in March 2020, Taal Volcano erupted and caused the evacuation of more than 135,000 people. It also damaged infrastructure and livelihoods, and disrupted essential services, such as water supply and education.
During the disaster, Pagcor provided permanent shelters to displaced locals. In its Pagcor Village Project, which cost P30 million, it provided 100 units of 30-square-meter houses for the displaced residents in the towns of Agoncillo, Lemery, Balete, and Mataas na Kahoy.
During the hearing, Co noted that aside from being one of the top revenue generating offices of government, Pagcor is also the source of funding for social projects for Filipino youth, poor families, and Universal Health Care beneficiaries.
In Pagcor’s presentation at the lower chamber, Tengco said Pagcor remitted P7.71 billion for the Universal Health Care (UHC) per Republic Act No. 11223 in 2021.
Pagcor’s P6-billion dividend contribution in 2021 deposited in the Bureau of Treasury has been significant in pandemic response of the national government, the House appropriations committee chairman said.
Co said that being one of the top contributors among government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs), Pagcor helps deliver critical public services to our kababayans, both here and abroad.
Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez opposed the reported plan to privatize or sell to the private sector the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. (Pagcor).
“Pagcor is earning tens of billions of pesos a year for the government and for its numerous public service programs. I am strongly against privatizing it,” he said.
He said despite the pandemic, Pagcor earned P26.7 billion in the first half of this year, P32.6 billion last year and P30 billion in 2020 when the health crisis erupted.
“So why kill, or more appropriately, why sell the goose that lays the golden eggs?” Rodriguez asked.
He said private investors are profit-motivated and would care less about public service activities like helping the sick and building schools than a public agency like Pagcor.
While expressing opposition against the privatization of Pagcor, the Mindanao lawmaker said Pagcor cannot continue being a regulator and at the same a player in the gaming industry.
“It’s not fair to businessmen investing in casinos. This situation of Pagcor being a regulator and a player is not conducive to attracting investments,” he said.
He proposed the creation of a Casino Gaming Regulatory Authority so that Pagcor could continue to be a gaming-casino operator.