MANILA, Philippines – The Makati City government will temporarily stop issuing new business licenses and permits to service providers of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) effective immediately.
On Sunday, December 8, Mayor Abby Binay said that she is imposing the indefinite moratorium due to “rising criminality and prostitution."
"We would no longer accept new applications for POGO service providers and crack down hard against illegal activities that are catering to POGOs and their employees within Makati," Binay said in a statement.
This means Makati will stop issuing Letters of No Objection and the city will no longer accept new applications for business permits from POGO service providers for an indefinite period.
The mayor of the country’s richest local government unit explained property rates in Makati increased due to the influx of foreign workers hired by POGOs, putting the local property sector at risk of “overheating.”
Binay also cited the recent spike in crimes involving Chinese nationals working for POGOs. In the past months alone, Binay said Makati closed down 4 POGO service providers that were operating illegally, two business establishments used as fronts for prostitution, and one unsanitary restaurant and catering company.
On November 26, the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group also nabbed a Chinese national caught with P2.5-billion worth of shabu in Barangay San Antonio in Makati.
Still, Binay said “almost all” of the around 300 POGO service providers currently operating in Makati are licensed with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and are registered with the city’s Business Permits and Licensing Office.
“We will always welcome legitimate businesses in the city that strictly adhere to all laws and ordinances, particularly the payment of taxes. And we will always strive to provide these businesses and their employees with a safe environment conducive to business growth and personal activities,” Binay said.
The Makati City government earns about P200 million a year in local business taxes from POGO service providers.
China has previously urged the Philippine government to halt all online gambling operations, after linking the industry to crimes such as money laundering, kidnapping, and extortion. (READ: A Chinese online gambling worker's plight in Manila)
But President Rodrigo Duterte said he has no plans of banning POGOs, which contributes some P551 billion to the Philippine economy annually. – Rappler.com