Banning POGOs could help Philippine tourism: official
Banning Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) could eventually benefit the country’s tourism sector, said Sarah Lynne Ducanes, assistant secretary for the Policy and Planning Group at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Her comments were made on Wednesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Labour and Employment on the effects of POGOs on employment.
The Philippine Inquirer newspaper quoted Ms Ducanes as saying that the negative effects of POGOs “outweigh the revenues” they contribute to the local economy.
The NEDA official said additionally that POGOs were affecting the reputation of the Philippines among potential investors.
“Not because of POGO per see, but the fraudulent activities [associated with it] can put us in that [black] list or has put us in that list. That can affect this entire economic environment that we’re trying to create to attract investments both local and foreign,” Ms Ducanes said according to the media outlet.
She added that NEDA’s preliminary estimates “show that POGOs generate a net cost” in terms of the effect on tourism, particularly “Chinese tourism on the country”.
The official acknowledged that stopping the operation of POGOs would lead to some losses, such as office rental revenues. But a boost in tourism could eventually make up for the losses, she reportedly added.
The newspaper also quoted House Representative Joey Salceda as saying that NEDA’s assessment was “highly speculative”. Mr Salceda, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, said there were fewer Chinese tourists in the Philippines because of China’s stringent policy against outbound travel amid Covid-19.
“It’s very clear here that there is no difference if you have a POGO or not. China really has not allowed tourists to get out because of their zero-Covid policy,” he was cited as saying.
The Philippine authorities say they have recently stepped up efforts to prevent illegal online gaming activities in the country. The Philippine gaming regulator had cancelled the licences of 175 Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as of September 14, according to media report.
In late September, about 40,000 Chinese nationals that were employed by POGOs had their job permits cancelled, as part of the crackdown on illegal online gaming activities by the Philippines authorities.
China has, since at least 2019, been expressing concern that a number of POGOs might be targeting Chinese customers, and enticing them to engage in what China regards domestically as criminal activity. But the Philippines had not been blacklisted as a tourism destination by China, the Chinese embassy in Manila said last week, clarifying previous comment that had been attributed to the president of the Philippine Senate.