Senator Win Gatchalian’s position to expel Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) from the country to combat the proliferation of transnational crimes is backed by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
“NICA’s position on POGO operations should strongly prompt the government to move for the complete termination of POGOs’ activities,” Gatchalian said. He highlighted that NICA shares the view of the country’s economic managers as well as police authorities favoring the displacement of POGOs from the country.
“The closure or permanent suspension of POGO and its related illegal activities will help reduce human trafficking, forced labor, kidnapping, and other crimes in the country. The Philippines will no longer be a hub of an industry that’s prohibited in other countries. Additionally, it will resolve the issue of not being aware of the number of Chinese nationals in the country as their entry is facilitated by corrupt personnel,” NICA’s position stated as read by Senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored NICA’s budget.
During the recent Senate deliberations concerning NICA’s budget, it was learned that human trafficking continues to thrive in the Philippines because some cases are related to POGOs.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Gatchalian has been advocating for the expulsion of POGOs from the country, citing the ongoing proliferation of crimes linked to the industry. Aside from human trafficking, other crimes involving POGOs include prostitution, forcible abduction, homicide, illegal detention, kidnapping-for-ransom, theft, robbery-extortion, serious physical injuries, swindling, grave coercion, and various online frauds and scams.
As crimes attributed to the POGO industry remain unabated, Gatchalian earlier said economic losses from POGO operations reach a staggering P147.7 billion a year, citing the latest data provided by the Department of Finance (DOF). The amount takes into account direct economic costs from POGOs, including a decrease in inbound tourism revenues due to crime and decrease in foreign direct investments, among others.
“Malinaw na ang mga pangunahing ahensya ng gobyerno kabilang ang ating mga economic managers, kapulisan, at intelligence agencies kagaya ng NICA ay pabor na paalisin na ang mga POGO sa bansa dahil sa kinasasangkutan ng mga itong krimen. Hindi na natin dapat hintayin na lalo pang dumami ang mga krimen na dala ng mga POGO sa bansa,” Gatchalian ended.