POGO exodus hurts real estate industry

As the government is judiciously examining the presence of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, popularly known as POGO, deporting those who have been illegally hired and have illegally entered the country, a property consultant said the collateral damage for their exodus is the real estate industry that has been benefiting by their presence here.

According to David Leechiu, property analyst and CEO of Leechiu Property Consultants, foregoing POGO operations will cost the country around P952 million a day, based on the spending average of P4,000 per person in the industry.

He said closing POGO’s doors will not only mean letting billions in tax revenues go to waste but will also cost the economy billions every year in terms of office and residential rentals, and utilities, among other expenses, especially with 347,000 workers’ jobs on the line.

“Estimated losses include P18.9 billion for office rentals, P28.6 billion for residential spaces rented by workers, P9.5 billion in utilities, P54.3 billion in income taxes, P52.5 billion in fit-out costs, and P11.4 billion in meals—this is on top of the estimated P5.8 billion in taxes that lawmakers are willing to forego,” according to Leechiu’s.

Revenue stream

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Barcelon said that amid the controversies hounding POGO, from alleged crimes because of its operations in the country, there should be a balance between some of the social ills that POGOs bring about to the land, especially the crimes that are highlighted.

“We are concerned about that, anything of that nature. I think the government will closely look at this issue and balance out the impact of the downsizing of POGO. One of the sectors that will be really affected is the realty sector as a lot of buildings that were built in the last five years were solely focused on POGO operators. It will also result in a trickle-down effect on residences and services such as hospitality,” he said.

He stressed that legitimate POGO operators provide a revenue stream and job opportunities for the Filipino workforce.

But if the Chinese government has indeed encouraged the Philippine government not to support POGO operators because of the crimes related to the gambling operation, Barcelon said that’s a separate story.

“But if the Chinese government, per se, discourages people who would have a POGO operating base of POGO in their country, I guess we can read between the lines. If they do not encourage this, so why should we continue? So, we would go along from the point of security, and peace and order. That should take precedence over the revenue in this instance,” said Barcelon.

The Chinese Embassy, on Tuesday night, denied Senate President Miguel Zubiri’s earlier announcement that the country is on the tourist blacklist of China, stating “The report of ‘tourist blacklist’ is misinformation. China has not placed the Philippines on its blacklist for tourism.”

For his part, PCCI chairman emeritus Sergio Luis Ortiz said the business sector is indeed divided on the POGO banning, but are really concerned about the effect on the real estate industry and Filipinos who will lose their livelihoods if these POGOs stop operating.

“It is not our fault that Chinese people are going here to gamble. While it is true that China is discouraging, I am sure that there is a misunderstanding on the alleged sanction. But China, since day one, four or five years ago, they were already saying that China has been requesting that we stop it because gambling is not allowed in China,” he said.

Ortiz said eliminating POGOs can indeed hurt the economy but there should be a balance, such as eliminating the illegal and maintaining those POGOs that have pertinent licenses.

“We have to really have a good balance. And my good guess is, because of the uncertainty and the effect of this (POGO), we probably will be seeing the elimination of POGOs but I think they (the government) will start on the illegal ones, and they will be very careful to take away the legal ones. I don’t think it will be sudden because it can affect the economy, especially the spaces in the real estate industry being occupied by them. And the employees, how about them?” he asked.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *