Deport illegal POGO workers, BI dared

(THE MANILA TIMES) SENATOR Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada challenged the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to deport within two months about 48,800 Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) workers whose visas have been revoked.

“Our challenge to the BI is for them to ensure the implementation of these illegal aliens within the 59 days designated period and not allow any illegal transactions for them to remain or lengthen their stay in the country,” Estrada said.

He said the BI’s move was aligned with his earlier pronouncement urging a crackdown on illegal or unlicensed offshore gaming operations in the country.

“There are no economic gains whatsoever in the continuing stay of unlicensed POGOs and their workers insofar as the government is concerned,” Estrada said.

“It would be unfair, to say the least, to the 34 Pagcor-approved POGOs and their respective employees who are being subjected to 5 percent gross gaming revenue and 25 percent withholding tax on gross income, respectively, to allow them to remain sans any tax obligations,” he said.

“The cancellation of the license to operate POGOs would necessitate the cancellation of visas of aliens since there’s no reason for them to stay in the country,” Estrada added.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, on Monday, led the hybrid hearing on the three Senate resolutions seeking to probe the economic impact of the POGO industry in the country.

The senator said he wanted to determine whether or not the economic benefits outweigh the social costs of the POGO industry.

Gatchalian also said he deemed it necessary for the committee to oversee the implementation of the Republic Act (RA) 11590 or the law that governs the tax regime of POGOs.

“We would also want to analyze the benefits of POGOs, and the employment generation of POGOs. Of course, we will also look at other economic facets of this industry, and how it contributes to our economy,” he added.

This developed as the Philippine National Police said that more than 3,000 POGO workers have secured police clearance.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said that 3,198 POGO workers got their police clearance.

He added that during his recent trip to Hawaii for the Philippine-United States Annual Mutual Defense and Security Engagement Boards last week, he has been in constant communication with officials from the PNP on the situation of peace and order in the country.

He said that even while in Hawaii, he instructed a sustained law enforcement campaign in particular, with the illegal activities in local POGO establishments, particularly on kidnapping and trafficking in persons.

“As we speak, there are several undocumented POGO workers rescued by the PNP who are now in the Bureau of Immigration holding area while awaiting deportation and repatriation proceedings. At the same time, there are also POGO employers and maintainers accused of violations of Philippine laws who are currently undergoing investigation and initial stages of prosecution,” he added.