October 11, 2022
MANILA — A local industry association of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) firms and their service providers appealed to the government on Monday to reconsider plans to shut down their operations in the country, warning it would lead to more than 23,000 Filipinos losing their jobs on top of the foregone contributions to the economy amounting to billions of pesos.
The Association of Service Providers and POGOs (ASPAP) said their member firms employ a total of 23,118 Filipinos, 11,766 of whom are direct hires and 11,342 indirect ones, on top of the 17,130 foreign nationals who are employed in the gaming sector.
“ASPAP is worried because the impact [will] really affect the lives of many Filipino employees who are now working with our accredited POGOs and service providers,” the group’s spokesperson, lawyer Paul Bongco, said in a press conference in Pasay City.
Aside from the 68 service providers, only 16 out of the 35 POGO firms licensed by the state regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) are members of the trade association, according to Bongco, adding that the number of employees to be affected will be much higher than the numbers that they have now.
“The recommendation to get rid of POGOs will somehow greatly diminish also the government’s income,” the ASPAP official added.
In the last six years, Bongco said that the POGO industry had contributed more than P61 billion to the government in terms of taxes and fees paid to Pagcor, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Bureau of Immigration.
He added that driving away Pogo firms would also have ripple effects on other industries, particularly the real estate industry.
According to ASPAP, they employ a diverse set of employees in various disciplines and different fields of specialization.
The group said about 31.4 percent of their Filipino workers served as team leaders or supervisors, administrative assistants, sport-book handlers, kitchen staff, security officers, and finance and accounting assistants.
At least 16 percent work as data entry clerks, 10.5 percent as customer service representatives, and 10 percent as housekeepers.
The rest are comprised of general office staff, company drivers, payment officers, maintenance staff, dealers or presenters, data processors, and security guards.
According to Nelia Leonardo, a 43-year-old single mother of two, she is afraid of losing her job as a language translator if the government decides to push through with shutting down Pogos in the country.
“I’m afraid because it is a good job with good pay. With my income, I have partially paid for a small house and a tricycle,” Leonardo told the Inquirer in Filipino at the sidelines of the press conference.
She earns about P35,000 a month, with benefits, including accommodation and free food for her and her sons.
Meanwhile, 43-year-old Nasrudin Abdullah, a father of 10 who earns P25,000 a month as a Pogo driver for five years now, laments that he might be forced to go back to seeking work abroad if he ceases being an employee of one of the Pogo firms.
“For people like me who had minimal education, there is nowhere else to go for work except in other countries. You cannot get employed by companies here in the Philippines because you lack education. No one will hire you,” he said.
According to Pagcor, the overall revenue of Pogos has been declining from P8.021 billion in 2019 to P3.46 billion in 2021.
The number of POGO licensees also declined to 37 in 2021 from 53 in 2020 to 37 in 2021, with only 27 still operating by the end of last year.
In a statement on Monday, economist and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda reiterated that a total Pogo ban “is burning the house to kill a rat that isn’t even in the house in the first place.”
“I see no path forward for a total ban on POGOs without the government impairing contracts or stepping on the rights of legitimate businesses. Those who advocate for a total end to the sector are courting legal disaster. Remember, the Supreme Court affirmed in its most recent decision on Pogo taxes that we can’t just impose unduly burdensome conditions on the sector,” he said.
The lawmaker noted that Pogos also contribute around P128 billion in economic activity, which results in even more indirect activity.
“I estimate the indirect employment to be at around 92,000 more Filipinos [who] are also at risk of losing their jobs,” Salceda said.