POGO Chinese employees told: Submit COVID-19 test results

May 23, 2020

THE Paranaque city government directed Chinese employees of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) numbering about 35,000 to submit until next week their respective coronavirus disease (COVID)-19 tests to ensure that they are virus free when they return to work next month.

Mayor Edwin Olivarez also ordered POGO operators and managers to examine their returning workers for coronavirus symptoms, travel history, and possible exposure to the virus 14 days prior to reporting for work.

Olivarez signed last week Executive Order 37 directing public and private employees to undergo mandatory testing to reduce the transmission of the virus in the city. On the other hand, employers should have their employees tested to ensure that only COVID-free people are working.

The city government have been monitoring the movements of the foreign nationals who are employed in POGO firms amid COVID-19 pandemic scare not only in Metro Manila but the entire country.

As of June, last year, there are 56 PAGCOR-licensed POGOs. It is estimated that at least 30 firms are operating in the Philippines illegally.

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Paranaque is hosting 19 POGO offices with 18,000 to 22,000 workers. Besides, about 10,000 to 13,000 Chinese nationals are into restaurant and convenient store business using Filipino dummies while others are reportedly involved in prostitution.

There are 138,000 foreigners employed by POGOs as of May 2019, with 83,760 of them holders of special work permits allowing them to stay in the country for at most six months.

According to the mayor, since these POGO firms are operating in the city, they are mandating that they must have the testing. In a period of seven days they must have a testing for employees, he explained.

“If these employees failed to comply with this requirement, for sure they cannot continue to work while the POGO operations will not be allowed,” Olivarez said.

He pointed out that employers must find a government accredited testing facility on their own and “they will also shoulder the cost of each test.”

Olivarez explained that employees who fail to submit COVID test result face corresponding charges. The EO, he said, is in the exercise of police power of the local government unit for the general welfare of people.