POGOs in Parañaque

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    TED Failon, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno and Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen. What do these individuals have in common?

    They are passionately against POGO, as the offshore gaming operations are known in the Philippines. They detest the presence of internet-based gambling in the country, especially in the business hubs of Makati and Paranaque, for various reasons.

    Failon is a crusading mediaman who dislikes Pagcor and gambling in general. Chinese President Xi Jinping implements to the letter his country’s anti-gambling laws, limiting legal gambling to Macau and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In fact, he requested Cambodia and the Philippines to stop the POGOs immediately because they have become natural drains through which hard-earned RMBs and dollars from China are lost instead of being used for further economic activities. Hun Sen followed Xi’s advice but not President Duterte, who is biding his time in acting on the request. China had asked the Philippines to ban all online gambling operations, saying a huge amount of Chinese funds are illegally flown out of China through cross-border money laundering.

    On POGO operations, Diokno said, “There’s some benefits, in terms of if they pay their taxes but there are also some risks. I tend to be risk averse. I’d rather they leave, if I have my way.”

    Local officials of Paranaque City and its police force, along with those in Makati, have been working with Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in fighting illegal POGOs that cheat on taxes and dodge other regulations. The Pagcor chief said they have already closed some 200 fly-by-night online gaming companies in the last few months.

    For the measly government taxes that they grudgingly pay, the gambling operations have resulted in concomitant problems such as prostitution, kidnapping, homicide, murder and other violent crimes.

    Only recently, Diamond Bay Towers on 150 Roxas Blvd., Baclaran was raided for allegedly operating a Chinese-only prostitution den, the Manila Wellness Spa, on its 3rd floor. Listed as the building’s owner is Standford Resources and Development Corp. reportedly headed by one Bennie Cuason.

    Paranaque police and local officials had been tipped off by residents on suspicious activities in the said building, with the presence of many Chinese office and construction workers there. Further investigation revealed the building’s alleged violations of local ordinances about business and zoning permits, etc.

    The crimes of prostitution, illegal gambling and the like are best fought with the help of the community and barangay residents, and in Paranaque this truism is best exemplified.