House eyes probe of POGO operations

THE House Committee on Games and Amusements will listen to a briefing from Philippine Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) on the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO).

According to the chairman, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap, the committee has set a public hearing on the activities of PAGCOR at  the resumption of Congress next month.

The panel is expected to consolidate resolutions filed by lawmakers seeking a congressional inquiry into the operations of POGO, focusing on the entry of Chinese workers without necessary working permits.

“We already called on PAGCOR officials to give us a briefing on POGO issues,” Yap said.

The solon also wanted to get a list of POGO operators that are paying the right taxes as well as those with violations.

Last month, some solons led by Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr, filed House Resolution 337, citing the need for regulating the POGO industry and ensuring that government collects revenues from the operators.

Based on figures of the Department of Labor and Employment, there are around 138,000 foreign workers in the Philippines, mostly Chinese employed by POGOs. Of the number, 83,760 were issued special work permit and 54,240 have alien employment permit.

Yap said aside from revenue losses, concern has been aired over reports that POGO hubs have been established in strategic locations compromising the country’s security.

POGO casinos are located near Philippine defense installations such as Camp Aguinaldo and the headquarters of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame, Philippine Air Force in Pasay City, Philippine Army in Taguig City, Philippine Navy on Roxas Boulevard and Sangley Point in Cavite.

Militant lawmakers supported the investigation into the POGO industry.

Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat filed House Resolution 221 seeking a probe into the effects of POGOs on the local economy, national security and the public.

Another lawmaker,  Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, filed a separate resolution seeking to probe POGO firms illegally operating in the country.

Barbers said he has received information that 46 out of 58 POGOs licensed by PAGCOR are unregistered local or foreign corporations.