POGOs Could Cripple Philippine Inbound Tourism, According to Government Official
A government official in the Philippines is making the most out of a recent controversy over the Philippine Online Gaming Operator (POGO) segment. Sarah Lynne Ducanes believes that POGOs are a threat to tourism, although she can’t provide any data to substantiate her claim.
Just over a week ago, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri exclaimed that China had placed the Philippines on a blacklist for tourism. China later denied the claim and said that Zubiri misinterpreted comments, but he stood by his assertion.
Ducanes, the assistant secretary for the Policy and Planning Group at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), is taking full advantage of the confusion surrounding the blow-up. At a hearing yesterday in the House of Representatives, she said POGOs are causing angst among tourists and potential investors.
POGOs Damage the Country’s Reputation
The official’s remarks came as part of a government meeting on employment. The Philippine Inquirer reported that she explained that POGOs are causing more damage to the perception of the country than the benefits they provide.
Most of the issues for which POGOs have been the center of attention lately don’t focus on the legal segment. Instead, questions of shady operators and human trafficking stem from illegal operations. These, as Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) explains, do not have licenses and are not technically part of the POGO ecosystem.
Ducanes tried to alter her position during the hearing by stating that the issue isn’t with POGOs per se, but with the “fraudulent activities” associated with the activity. She then touched on China’s blacklist as an example of how the segment could impact tourism.
Ducanes added that NEDA’s data supports the theory, in particular with Chinese tourism. She said that cutting off POGOs completely might result in an initial loss of revenue for the Philippines, but said a resulting increase in tourism would offset the loss.
However, some lawmakers disputed the findings during the hearing. PAGCOR data previously showed that tourism from China only provided around 1.37% of the entire market. It doesn’t appear that there will be any increase soon since China continues pushing its zero-COVID-19 policy.
Representative Joey Salceda called out Ducanes for the remarks. He said the NEDA data was “highly speculative,” as China’s travel rules are the real deterrent – not POGOs.
The discussion was part of a focus on how legislative changes might impact employment. There is talk about banning all forms of online gambling, although some legislators would prefer a softer approach.
The discussion about the ban gained steam as a result of the issues with POGOs. However, the Philippines has been working to clean up the image and appease China at the same time. It took another step toward that goal yesterday.
The Philippines Bureau of Immigration deported a small handful of Chinese nationals yesterday. They previously worked at POGOs and, when operators left the business, they stayed in the country. As a result, they were living on expired visas, and the Philippines is sending them home.
There are around 40,000 people that the country is hoping to deport, provided it can find all of them. At least 3,000 of these are scheduled to be removed before the end of October.
Three years ago, there were 63 licensed POGOs. Now, there are just 34 after many quit when the Philippines tried implementing new taxes on the segment.
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