With the Philippines still having an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) order on Manila, home to many Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs), the country’s gaming regulator has agreed it’s time to start loosening its own industry restrictions. On May 1, POGOs were authorised to resume partials operations as announced by the Philippines Amusement and Gambling Corporation (PAGCOR).
PAGCOR indicated in a press release that POGOs would be allowed to resume partial operations if they meet the ECQ guidelines. Chairperson Andrea Domingo cited POGO’s revenues as the reason for this sudden relaxation, as they will be instrumental in the government’s battle against COVID-19.
However, the regulator outlined four steps they will take before a POGO can get back to work. Next, they check and settle their tax obligations with the Internal Revenue Office. Secondly, they pay their unpaid fees to PAGCOR. Second, they remit their April administrative fees.Finally, they “must pass the readiness to implement safety protocols.”
PAGCOR plan to follow additional safety protocols during the ECQ phase. Just 30 percent of workers will be allowed to be in the workplace, shuttle services will be given to staff, and all the usual COVID-19 protections that we have come to expect, including social distance and temperature controls. In fact, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not return to work, as can vulnerable workers, and all workers must be screened before they return to work.
“Even with the partial resumption of POGO operations, we will put premium on the safety of their employees, and the gaming industry as a whole. While we recognise their huge contributions to nation-building, and their great viability as a funding source in these difficult times, we still have to practice extra precaution in striking a balance between health and economic benefits,” Domingo explained.
Through allowing POGOs to reopen, including the PHP1.8 billion ($35.7 million) earned in fees for the first quarter of 2020, PAGCOR might potentially get ahead of their critics.
The decision is not going to be good news. Recently, Senator Risa Hontiveros argued that the POGO industry should be abolished, arguing that it created more problems than it was worth, and that Filipinos did not gain even as much as Chinese workers did.