PH allowed POGO w/Crimes&Tax Losses to stay;Decides to Remove VFA Aid & Protection Instead

Duterte refuses to change stance on VFA; Duterte not convinced with money laundering allegations vs Pogos

Duterte not convinced with money laundering allegations vs Pogos President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night shrugged off the money laundering allegations being linked with the controversy-hit Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos), stressing that he refused to shut them down because the government needed the money they were generating.

Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela told a recent Senate hearing that at least P14 billion worth of transactions by Pogos were related to suspicious activities.

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Philippine government loses P51B to POGO 'tax evasion'

Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) operators' "skirting" of our tax laws  has cost the government some P51 billion in revenues, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sunday.

Based on his calculations, Gatchalian told Dobol B sa News TV that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has only collected P11 billion from POGOs, when the amount should have been P62 billion.

"Ang nangyayari ay pinapalusutan tayo nitong mga POGO sa ating bansa. Meron silang tinatawag na off-shore companies, so ibig sabihin dito sila nag-ooperate pero hindi sila nagbabayad ng taxes kasi ang kanilang sinasabi ay hindi naman sila Philippine-registered, sila ay off-shore-registered," he said.

"Ito ay consistent doon sa sinabi ng BIR sa hearing na hindi nila mapuwersang kolektahan itong mga off-shore na POGO dahil hindi sila nakarehistro dito," the senator added.

Out of the 60 POGO licenses issued by the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation, only 11 are registered in the Philippines while the rest are foreign-registered, Gatchalian pointed out.


POGO workers' influx to PH 'directly' linked to rise in criminality - police

The rise in kidnapping and prostitution cases in the country is "directly" linked to the influx of Chinese workers to the Philippines, a high-ranking police official said Thursday, as a Senate panel looked into the connection between Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and a spike in criminality in the country.

Some 199 trafficked women were rescued from Chinese-run prostitution dens last year, said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Chief of Operations.

Of the rescued women, 173 were Chinese, including one minor, Eleazar said, while 59 of the 60 suspects arrested for their involvement in sex trafficking were Chinese.

"We did not have these kinds of operations 3 years before," Eleazar told members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

"The increase in crime is directly dependent [on] the number of Chinese nationals who arrived here," he told reporters in a separate interview.

Police also recorded 9 POGO-related kidnappings involving 16 Chinese victims and 38 Chinese suspects, he said.

If incidents involving physical casinos are considered, the number of kidnapping incidents will climb to 73 cases involving 80 victims abducted between 2017 and 2020, he said.


Eleazar affirmed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon's claim that the kidnapping syndicates have been "preying on Chinese businessmen engaged in online gambling."

"All of the victims are Chinese nationals. Perpetrators are mostly Chinese but in cahoots with some of the Filipinos here," Eleazar told reporters.

"It is a cause of concern for all of us... Sa pagdami nila (Chinese) dito, pati na rin 'yung ibang businessman nagke-cater na din sa ibang pangangailangan ng ibang Chinese nationals, not just the restaurant and other recreational concern, but pati na rin 'yung prostitution kasi nagdadala na din sila ng entertainers from abroad," he said.

(With the increase of the Chinese here, even other businessmen are catering to the needs of Chinese nationals, not just the restaurant and other recreational concern, but even prostitution, because they also bring entertainers here from abroad.)

Drilon castigated the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for pushing to maintain POGOs in the country despite the social costs.

"Should POGOs remain in our midst given all these information we have? Why are we so in love with POGOs?" Drilon said.

"I am so disappointed that for P8 billion in fees, we're saying we should maintain them... Disgusting is a very mild term of describing your view of POGO operations," he told PAGCOR representatives in the hearing.


Duterte refuses to change stance on VFA

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night insisted that his stance on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would not change even as some senators asked the Supreme Court to compel him to seek Senate concurrence in terminating the key military pact with the United States.

“They cannot compel me. I refused to be compelled. I have terminated it. Tapos ang problema ko. Wala na kong problema diyan. As far as I’m concern we’re beginning to count the 180 days for them to pack up and go. I am not reneging on the VFA and I’m not going to America to discuss it with anybody,” Duterte told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang.

In its petition for declaratory relief and mandamus, the Senate called on the high court to order the Office of the Executive Secretary to refer the notice of withdrawal from the VFA to the upper chamber for its concurrence. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

IN NUMBERS: How beneficial is VFA to the Philippines?

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday gave a rundown on the billions-worth of military and humanitarian aid the Philippines has received from the United States, thanks to the long-standing alliance between the two countries.

The Philippines received nearly $1 billion (P50.73 billion) in military equipment, training, aid and funding for various projects just from 2016 to 2019, Locsin said in a Senate inquiry.

The hearing sought to weigh the benefits the Philippines receives from its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, which President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to revoke last month over the canceled visa of his long-time ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

Here's a list of those benefits according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief:


2016 to 2019

-$267.75 million (P13.58 billion)

2020 to 2021

- $200 million (P10.14 billion) for aircraft, training, equipment and construction for the Armed Forces of the Philippines - $45 million (P2.2 billion) in foreign military financing

"The Philippines is able to receive after-sales servicing in the form of maintenance packages that increase the articles' value and lifespan," Locsin said.

Some 319 activities designed to "enhance" Filipino troops' capabilities "in countering threats to national security" were also slated in 2020 alone, he said.


Development assistance

- $336.30 million (P17.05 billion) for scholarships, seminars, projects on health, environment, agriculture, fisheries, trade, labor and governance

Locsin said US assistance support projects against human trafficking, cyberattacks and narcotics, and help fund disaster response and intelligence and capability-building.

"Without the VFA, the US Departments of State and Defense may have difficulty in requesting funds from the US Congress for FMF (foreign military financing) and other defense assistance programs to the Philippines."


Close relations between Manila and Washington have also resulted in economic benefits as the US is inclined to give "preferential treatment" to its traditional allies, Locsin said.

The US is the Philippines' "largest source of grants," accounting for 36.89 percent of the total grant aid the country received in 2018.

These grants amount to $886.47 million (P44.96 billion), according to Locsin.

The US is also the Philippines' 3rd largest trading partner, biggest export market and 4th largest import source with some $18.70 billion (P948 million) worth of goods traded in 2018.

It is also the country's 3rd largest tourism market, next to South Korea and China, with 1 million American tourists visiting the Philippines in 2018.

The world's largest economy is also the Philippines' 5th largest source of investments, with American investments amounting to P12.9 billion in 2018.


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