Duterte won't ban POGOs: 'We need it'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of banning Philippine online gambling operations (POGOs) despite China's call to ban them. 

On Wednesday, September 4, he said the Philippine economy needs the industry because of the jobs it provides. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Duterte and the POGO dilemma)

"We decide to benefit the interest of my countrymen. Maybe out of courtesy, I will listen to you pero (but) I decide. I decide that we need it. Maraming mawalan ng hanapbuhay (Many will lose their jobs)," Duterte said during a press conference in Malacañang.

POGOs, while they do hire some Filipinos, mostly hire Chinese nationals due to the need for workers proficient in the language of players in mainland China. POGOs provide marketing, customer service, and IT support for online gambling sites, mainly by hiring Chinese employees.

While the Philippine government says there are roughly 130,000 of these Chinese workers in the country, observers say the actual number could be twice that.

Duterte said POGOs are regulated by government "anyway," in an apparent bid to reassure China that abuses will be stopped.

He then told online gambling operators to remit their dues to government faithfully or else face consequences.

"You concessionaires, if you don't remit, even just one non-remittance, you better close then we talk. If you operate, this is what I will do, I will go to your house and we will talk there," Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He said no "gambling lord" can get past him. True to form, he made colorful threats.

"Hindi ako lord pero backup ako ni lord. My god, pupuntahan kita, doon sa bahay mo.... 'Di ba sabi ko, putangina ninyo, huwag n'yo lokohin ang gobyerno. Do not fuck with me," Duterte said,

(I am not the lord but I am the lord's backup. My god, I will go to you, in your house... Didn't I tell you, son of a bitch, don't fool the government. Do not fuck with me.)

While Duterte cited the impact of POGOs on livelihood, POGOs' impact on the Philippine economy is mostly in real estate where the need to house Chinese workers has driven up rental and housing prices, to the consternation of Filipinos.

POGOs also mean revenue for the government, with the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation or Pagcor expecting the sector to contribute P8 billion in licensing fees and royalties this year.

Meanwhile, Duterte's security advisers have also raised alarm about illegal Chinese workers in the country to service POGOs.

These illegal workers were identified as a possible security "threat" by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana raised the possibility that POGO workers could shift to spying, especially since some POGO hubs are located near military or police camps. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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