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POGOs: Economic gains vs social costs



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SO, shutting down Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) operations is off the table. The guarantee came from President Duterte himself.

He would neither stop nor suspend POGO activities primarily because of the enormous income the government earns from its operations, said Salvador Panelo, the President’s chief legal counsel and mouthpiece.

Panelo said POGO revenues could fund salaries of nurses and teachers, among others, and the fight against the coronavirus.

And the problems encountered with their operations? He said the proper implementation of established laws and regulations could solve them.

The way Malacanang heralded POGO’s existence seemed to trumpet the tune that economic gains far outweigh the social costs.

Really? The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) reported last week that P14 billion of the P54 billion in POGO transactions from 2017 to 2019 was linked to suspicious activities. What’s worse, the figures showed that around P138 million in POGO transactions were linked to drug trafficking.

So is it all about money?

How many POGO outlets paid the correct taxes or actually paid them at all? How about the employment of their foreign workers that drove real property prices up to the detriment of locals?

Never mind the money laundering schemes that affect the country’s economy, government, and social well-being.

Never mind the “pastillas” bribery that contributes to government corruption.

Never mind the extortion, human trafficking, kidnapping, rape, and prostitution as consequences that go with POGOs.

Never mind that they contribute to civil disorder and society’s moral decay.

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So is it all about money?

The West Philippine Sea in exchange for Chinese loans?

Never mind our poor fishermen being driven away from their traditional fishing grounds.

And here comes Big Brother China asking us to assist in its efforts to crack down on cross-border gambling and cyber fraud. And we chose POGO.

Are we then choosing money over a friend?

Perhaps people who did an excellent job convincing the President to allow POGO operations to continue would have a lot to lose had it gone the other way. It was a gamble.

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