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Closure of licensed offshore gaming operators raises legal issues — solon

A CONGRESSMAN has questioned the statement released by major business groups supporting the total closure of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), saying such a move raises legal issues.

Last week, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, Makati Business Club, and the Management Association of the Philippines issued a joint statement expressing support for the closure of POGOs. 

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda said the groups’ position “fails to answer the question: how do you legally prevent fully compliant businesses from operating without being confiscatory?” 

“These same groups,” he said in a Viber message, “would be up in arms if we closed down any other business that did not break the law.” 

He asked: “What rights to due process, equal protection, private property, and non-impairment of contracts do Makati Business Club members have that we can deprive valid and legally compliant POGOs of?” 

Hansley A. Juliano, a political economy researcher studying at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of International Development in Japan, however, said shutting down the offshore gaming industry would be more beneficial to the country.   

“Rep. Salceda is falling into the sunk cost fallacy. It’s the same as gambling hoping to win when you’re already deep in debt,” Mr. Juliano said in a Facebook Messenger chat.   

“We have to remember that industry regulations exist as a concept, and POGOs are not supposed to be exempt from that,” he said. “Sure we can make exceptions for operations that have shown benefits, but the collective impression of POGOs has been negative.”  

Law enforcement agencies have been dealing with crimes linked to POGOs, including kidnap for ransom, prostitution and human trafficking, and online scamming, among others.   

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said that a “delicate balancing act indeed from a policy and business standpoint” is needed “in view of the risks involved.”  

“This is a delicate issue especially on legitimate POGO operations in the country in view of local (employment) involved, business given to suppliers of POGOs, and their contribution to the economy in terms of rental income on office, residential, and commercial real estate, their spending that add to sales to various businesses and industries,” he said in a separate Facebook Messenger chat. — Kyanna Angela Bulan

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