Much has been written about Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) but no one has actually ever been in one I think. I got a glimpse into how they operate last Friday. They are literally self-contained communities complete with their own grocery store, salon and barber shop, restaurant, laundry and whatever else the Chinese employees will need for the duration of their stay in the country.
The Opposition claims they don’t generate employment but they actually do with support staff which are all local hires. There is also the demand for office space and residential units which all contribute to the local economy.
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Let me put it this way. I sell frozen pizza to this particular POGO whose GM was a school mate. The average order is 150 pizzas per month due to their reduced workforce. But pre-pandemic they had 1,500 Chinese employees. Another manner they contribute to the local economy is shuttle vans. They had 100 units of Toyota Hi-Ace Grandias parked at their office building. The vans shuttle employees between the “office” and their place of residence which is usually a condominium complex. The influx of POGOs in 2016 single-handedly prevented the looming collapse of the condominium market due to oversupply.
POGOs are not the same as junket operators who feed gamblers into the high-end casinos like Solaire at the Entertainment City along Manila Bay. The junket operator trade is controlled by Kim Wong, a Chinese triad member who has made the country his base of operations. It was Kim Wong who bought Island Cove from the Remullas to transform into a POGO island complex.
POGOs cater to mainland Chinese who gamble online because casinos are prohibited in China except for the Macau Special Administrative Region. The Chinese are known for their love of gambling just like the Japanese which is why the pachinko king Okada also built a five-star hotel bearing his name at the same location.
The Chinese are every patriotic. Every fixture, office equipment, security systems and whatever else needed were all imported from China. The foodstuff sold in their grocery including fruits, are also from China. This is also revenue for the Bureau of Customs.
The POGOs stick out like a sore thumb because it puts focus on our lack of a national identity. We have never developed our own manufacturing industry despite the presence of long-established brands. This is due to the long-standing relationship between business and politicians. The oligarchs would prefer to make money by putting up rent-seeking businesses. These businesses don’t provide much employment which coupled with our increasing population leads Filipinos to find jobs abroad. If it weren’t for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, we would have a higher unemployment and underemployment rate.
The Opposition has vilified and demonized POGO operations in the country without looking at the bigger picture. The goal is to get Filipinos to hate the Chinese and also the government in order to sway public opinion to their side. What most Filipinos don’t realize is what happens after if they are successful in getting the POGOs to pack up and leave? Illegal POGOs have no place in the country but legitimate POGOs don’t deserve unfair treatment because their investment is not peanuts. It also comes with risk. This is why we need a responsible and constructive opposition in a fiscalizer role.
The present opposition is all about destablization and getting back in power. They are not about nation-building. They are about keeping Filipinos mired in poverty so they can continue to control them. It’s about time a new opposition rises from the ashes of the Opposition of old.
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