COVID pandemic forced gov’t to allow POGOs, gambling to resume — Duterte
President Duterte said he has tempered his opposition to gambling because the country was running out of funds to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang)
Duterte made the statement as he led a meeting with executives of the ruling PDP-Laban party and other government officials on Tuesday, July 6.
In his remarks, President Duterte recognized that he was really against gambling and never allowed it during his presidency. However, he said he had to allow the activity due to pressures on public funds.
“Sabi ko ayaw ko ng sugal and I never allowed it. But pagdating ng pandemic naubos ang pera natin (I said I was against gambling and I never allowed it. But when the pandemic hit, we ran out of funds),” he said.
“Ang reserba natin nagamit natin lahat (We have used up all our reserves) to contain the virus from rampaging all throughout the country,” he added.
“Ngayon, kasi kailangan natin ng pera (Now that we need money), the most sensible thing is really just to encourage those activities,” he continued.
Duterte, in particular, cited how he allowed Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to resume operations to help fund the fight against COVID-19.
“Sabi ko, ‘Sige.’ Ang akin lang (I said, ‘fine’ but my condition is), just pay the correct taxes,” he said.
“Magsugal kayo (You want to gamble), go ahead. If you can win a lotto franchise, go ahead,” he added.
Leisure establishments including casinos and POGOs were not allowed to operate when the pandemic hit the Philippines. In June, Duterte allowed POGO operations to resume subject to the following conditions:
All proceeds will go to the government’s COVID-19 response efforts
Only 30 percent of their workforce are allowed
Settle taxes and obtain clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that they are paying taxes
Show proof of paying all fees required by PAGCOR
Shoulder the testing of its employees for COVID-19
Implement strict physical distancing
Employees must wear face masks
POGOs must provide a shuttle service or lodging for employees
POGO must pay their employees even during days they were not able to work
In May this year, President Duterte certified as urgent the Senate bill that sought to allow the government to better collect taxes from POGOs.
The regulation and taxation of POGOs started when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) provided the rules and regulations on September 1, 2016.
The Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) Act mandated POGOs to pay a five-percent tax on gross bets or turnovers. However, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the said provisions in January.