Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to immediately collect the P1.36 billion that Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) owe the government.
Hontiveros said according to a report from the Commission on Audit, the amount represented the total outstanding debt of 15 POGOs in the country.
“Why was the debt of POGO allowed to reach this big?” she said.
According to PAGCOR’s Legal Department, of the 15 delinquent POGOs, three were still operating as of January 12, 2021 while eight had their licenses canceled, three were under review, and one was suspended.
“Once they have paid, they should not be given a license,” Hontiveros said.
When POGOs first entered the country, the promise was for more investment and economic activity, but what the country got was a myriad of crimes.
Hontiveros, who led the Senate investigation on the rise of POGO-related prostitution, said the National Capital Region Police Office recently nabbed two Chinese POGO employees who abducted two other Chinese nationals.
The senator stressed that until now, even in the middle of the pandemic, POGO-related crimes continue.
“If we don’t kick POGOs out, chances are these crimes will only multiply,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros, along with Senators Franklin Drilon and Kiko Pangilinan, also voted no to the POGO tax bill approved in the Senate last June.
The senator had disagreed with the preferential tax treatment given to POGOs in the bill because of the opacity and murkiness of the industry.