Senator Win Gatchalian said the rising involvement of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) in various criminalities, including human trafficking, could drive away tourists and dampen arrivals in the country.
“Nagpalit pa nga tayo ng slogan na Love The Philippines kasi gusto nating i-promote ang kagandahan ng bansa tapos mababalitaan natin na may mga krimen dahil sa negosyo ng POGO,” Gatchalian said.
“It is peace and order that will lead us to sustained growth and more employment opportunities for our people. However, the POGO industry is giving us additional problems as far as peace and order is concerned,” Gatchalian said. He previously voiced his worries about recent police raids conducted separately in two POGO hubs in Clark, Pampanga, and in Las Pinas City resulting in the rescue of thousands of foreign and local employees.
Based on data from the tourism department, the country welcomed a total of 2.02 million foreign tourists last year from the time the country’s borders opened in February 2022. Including overseas Filipino workers, arrivals totaled 2.65 million. Based on data from the Philippine Tourism Satellite Accounts, inbound visitor expenditure in 2022 amounted to P368 billion, with food and beverage accounting for P94.74 billion or 25.7% of the total, shopping expenditures at P80.83 billion or 21.9% and accommodation services at P63.32 billion or 17.2%.
According to Gatchalian, the government’s efforts to enhance tourism revenues, increase job opportunities, boost local sales, and increase government revenues could be rendered useless by reputational risks brought by rising criminalities attributed to the POGO industry.
“People often travel for pleasure. How can we effectively promote our country as a tourism destination when there are reports of criminalities such as human trafficking and kidnap-for-ransom? Potential tourists could just easily skip the Philippines in favor of other Asian destinations,” he emphasized.
“Kung turista ka tapos mababalitaan mo na may mga krimen, natural matatakot ka. Sasabihin mo, anong klaseng bansa ito? At hindi magiging tahimik ang bansa hanggat nandyan ang mga POGO,” said the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, who has been calling for the immediate expulsion of POGOs from the country amid rising incidence of crimes involving the POGO industry.