Labor dept says 'toothless' on illegal POGO workers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2019 10:34 AM | Updated as of Sep 18 2019 10:54 AM

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MANILA - The Department of Labor and Employment has no power over Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) from employing illegal foreign workers, its chief said Wednesday.

Although his department could inspect POGO operations, Labor Secretary Silvestro Bello III said it remains "toothless" in disciplining them.

"Mayabang lang kami. Mag-inspect kami. Sabihin 'oh wala ka lisensiya, kumuha ka ng lisensiya.' Pero pag di sumunod 'yan, wala naman kaming magawa. Wala kaming ngipin," he told radio DZMM.

(We're arrogant, we can inspect and say 'you have no license, get a license' but if they don't follow, we can't do anything. We're toothless.)

"Yung lisensiya na binibigay ng Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp) wala sa amin 'yan eh. The moment 'yung licensee wants to operate and he is provided with workers, dun na kami papasok dahil employment na ito."

(The license Pagcor give is not up to us. The moment the licensee wants to operate and he is provided with workers, that's when we come in.)

Bello said he will discuss the matter with Pagcor, Bureau of Internal Revenue, other POGO operators and the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

The said agencies will launch Wednesday a "one-stop shop" in Metro Manila where foreign workers could apply for an alien employment permit.

Bello said foreigners must have a tourist or working visa and a taxpayer identification number.

"Di kami magbibigay ng AEP kapag yung trabaho na gagawin ng foreign national ay kaya ng Pilipino, yun ang maliwanag," he said.

(We will not give AEP to foreigners whose jobs could be done by Filipinos, that's clear.)

Some 12,000 foreign nationals were found illegally working for POGOs, an inter-agency body earlier said, while at least 58 offshore gaming firms have licenses to operate in the Philippines.

The finance department over the weekend ordered the BIR to shut down POGOs and their service providers that fail or refuse to pay taxes of their foreign workers.

The Philippines has seen a spike in the arrival of Chinese tourists and workers since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in mid-2016 and immediately set about warming relations with Beijing.

The influx has had a mixed impact, and authorities suspect many of the arrivals are working illegally in the online gambling industry. With Agence France-Presse