Robredo: Why re-open POGOs before Filipino businesses?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 27)— Vice President Leni Robredo has questioned the proposal to let Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs resume operations to help raise funds for the country's COVID-19 response.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday, Robredo said the move would send a "bad message" for businesses employing Filipino nationals.

"Parang pangit na mensahe na sila pa iyong uunahin na payagang bumukas kaysa sa mga negosyo na nag-eemploy ng mga Pilipino," Robredo said.

[Translation: It's a bad message if they would let them re-open first, instead of businesses that employ Filipinos.]

"Kung binabawalan natin iyong para sa mga Pilipino, bakit bibigyan sila ng privilege na magbukas kaagad?" the Vice President added.

[Translation: If we're not letting Filipino-run businesses re-open, why are we giving them the privilege to do so?]

ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap earlier proposed to allow the reopening of POGOs, in order to give the country a "much-needed boost" in its tax collection system.

Other lawmakers have also rejected the calls, saying that the government should first resolve its pending issues with the gaming industry before allowing its operation resumption.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that POGOs will remain closed upon government's directive. However, he said that if a positive decision on the matter comes up, it can only be attributed to the country's need for more funding.

"Unang una po, ang POGOs under GCQ guidelines ay mananatiling sarado. Ganunpaman, kung ang desisyon po ay pabuksan 'yan, ang tanging basehan lang po ay simple: Kinakailangan natin ng pondo para magastos sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan," Roque said in a virtual media briefing the same day.

[Translation: First of all, POGOs under the guidelines will remain closed. However, if the decision is to open them, the simple basis would be: We need funds for our citizens' needs.]

POGOs contributing?

The gaming sector, however, has faced several issues in the past few months.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue earlier revealed that over ₱27 billion worth of tax liabilities remain uncollected from the POGO sector.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council also said POGOs generate only ₱7 billion in net inflows— a value the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said only translates to a "negligible" 0.04 percent of the domestic economy.

The Blue Ribbon has also opened inquiries into POGO-related crimes in the Philippines, including the controversial money laundering scheme.

On Friday, 44 Chinese POGO employees were also arrested in Parañaque City for running operations while a Luzon-wide lockdown is in place.

READ: Parañaque mayor wants Chinese POGO workers deported, on tight watch for other illegal POGO operations

CNN Philippines' Alyssa Rola, Melissa Lopez, and Glee Jalea contributed to this report.