Palace said Monday the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) should remain closed as the government implements different levels of quarantine in the county.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said POGOs could generate additional funds for COVID-19 should the government decide to reopen them.
However, the gaming operators would remain shut even in areas under the “new normal” or the general community quarantine (GCQ) on May 1, Roque said.
POGOs remain closed
“Ang POGOs under GCQ guidelines ay mananatiling sarado. Gayunpaman, kung ang desisyon ay pabuksan ‘yan, ang tanging basehan lang po ay simple, kinakailangan natin ng pondo para magastos sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan. Yun lang po yan. Simple mathematics,” Roque said during a virtual press briefing.
(POGOs under the GCQ guidelines would remain closed. However, if the decision is to reopen them, the only basis is simple, we need funding to spend on the needs of our people. That’s all. Simple mathematics.)
Roque added the government has so far spent P352 billion out of the P397 billion fund to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Patuloy pa rin pong nangangailangan ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi naman pupwedeng mag-magic ang Presidente at lalabas ay pera na pupwedeng gagastusin,” Roque said.
(Our people are still in need. The President can’t magically produce money that can be spent.)
Roque released the statement after Vice President Leni Robredo questioned calls to re-open POGOs while many Filipino businesses remain shut during the lockdown.
“Parang panget na mensahe na sila pa ang uunahing payagang bumukas kaysa sa mga negosyo na nag-e-employ ng mga Pilipino,” Robredo said in a CNN Philippines interview.
(It might be an ugly message for them to open before businesses that employ Filipinos.)
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said the government is looking into a proposal of reopening POGOs to help generate COVID-19 funds.
“The evaluation is ongoing,” Dominguez said. “But let me reiterate — all of the above depend on the results of the ongoing evaluation of the trade-offs involved in the decision of maintaining the current partial lockdown or tightening it or loosening it further.”
Albay Representative Joey Sarte Salceda, Chairman of the House Ways and Means panel, claimed that the country collected as much as P22.4 billion worth of taxes from POGOs in 2018 and 2019 alone.