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Long overdue! Abante seeks probe on proliferation of POGOs

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

House Minority Floor Leader Bienvenido “Benny” Abante (Manila) and three other congressmen are eyeing a probe on the proliferation of gaming hubs under Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) that employ Chinese nationals.

Abante together with Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva (CIBAC Party-list), House Committee on National Defense vice chair Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa City), and Manila Rep. Manuel Luis Lopez want congressional inquiry into the operations of the POGO industry in light of allegations that the booming business “has led to the influx of unregistered foreign workers and government revenue losses as a result of non-payment of income taxes.”

Abante stressed that the inquiry was long overdue “given the numerous issues that have surfaced regarding the POGO industry.”

Abantr earlier got irked that aside from the soaring influx of Chinese workers in the country, the matter surrounding these gaming hubs also raised questions concerning national security since many of the establishments were operating near vital defense installations.

Among the military bases near POGO hubs include Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame in Quezon City; the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, the Army and Marine headquarters in Taguig City, the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila and Sangley Point in Cavite City.

“What kind of possible threats do these POGO hubs near our defense installations represent? These and other concerns are what we want to address in an inquiry,” said Abante.

Abante noted that there are about 120,000 foreign workers in the POGO industry—only 63,855 are documented according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“The fact that we cannot even accurately account for these workers is troubling. If we have problems with regard to their documentation, then we will definitely have issues properly determining revenue collection,” Abante stressed.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II earlier lamented that the Department of Finance (DOF) estimates around P2-billion worth of personal income taxes are not being collected from POGO workers on a monthly basis.

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