CEZA derived 80% of income from 'illegal' operations – Lambino

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Raul Lambino, the newly-designated administrator and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), disclosed that 80% of the company’s income in recent years were derived from “illegal” gaming operations.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, August 2, Lambino said these were revenues from online and offshore gaming licensees operating outside the jurisdiction of CEZA, specifically the town of Santa Ana in Cagayan province.

Lambino echoed the Executive Order No. 13 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 2, strengthening the fight against illegal gambling and clarifying the jurisdiction and authority of agencies like CEZA in the regulation and licensing of gambling and online gaming facilities.

CEZA was put into limelight in January when Duterte accused its former administrator Jose Mari Ponce of pocketing P300 billion worth of kickbacks annually.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III also said they are looking into possible involvement of CEZA in Jack Lam’s illegal operations in Clark Freeport as some of the illegal aliens working for Lam had permits issued by CEZA.

‘Illegal’

Lambino said most licensees were reportedly operating in Makati, Clark Freeport, Manila, and Mandaluyong.

He said that the law was clear that gaming operations outside the jurisdiction of CEZA is illegal.

“There is already Executive Order No. 13 issued by the president. That is the law. Anything that is contrary to that is illegal,” the new administrator said.

He added that he already directed his officers to look into the records of the company so they could issue the necessary notices and warnings and decide at “the soonest time” whether they renew or cancel the licenses.

“They have to come to CEZA. They have to come to Santa Ana. They have to put their infrastructures here. They have to stop their operations in Makati or elsewhere,” he added.

For operators who operate under CEZA license but are outside the jurisdictions of CEZA, Lambino said they have to acquire their license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

This, according to the administrator, will only affect the operations of CEZA and will have no adverse effect on the Philippine economy.

Negative income

The strict implementation of the President’s order would mean 80% loss in CEZA’s income, according to Lambino. He added, “That is a big challenge for us because the report is that 80% or more than 80% of our income in CEZA was derived from those offshore gaming operations happening somewhere else, not here in Santa Ana."

He said that as per his team’s projection, the company will report negative income from 2017 to 2020.

“So, you will not expect much money flowing in already starting 2017, and that is the sad note on the part of any new manager, as in my case because you have a predecessor who was able to report a positive net income for the organization,” Lambino admitted.

“Unless, we can come up with some innovative ideas for our short term and medium-term operations in CEZA, we have to live by that situation,” he added. – Rappler.com