RESCUED. More than 40 foreign nationals reportedly forced to work with Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators are rescued in Angeles City, Pampanga on Sept. 17, 2022. The Department of the Interior and Local Government and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation ordered the closure of the  POGO company, Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc., located along Fil-Am Friendship Highway. (Courtesy of PRO-3)

MANILA – The Senate is weighing the effects of halting or continuing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) but could only think of disadvantages now.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the recent POGO revenues reached just PHP3 billion, far from the projected income of PHP40 billion annually; illegal workers proliferate; and kidnapping cases, although usually among foreign nationals, have the possibility of involving Filipinos, too.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Gatchalian said banning POGOs remains to be seen.

Gusto ko makita economic benefits kaya pag-aralan natin. Gusto natin na ang isang bansa na maayos, ligtas at mapayapa, pero kung kabit ng POGO ang organized crime, hindi natin maabot ang peace and order. Lalong lalala (I want to see economic benefits, so we have to study it. We want an an orderly, peaceful, and safe country but if organized crime is involved, we cannot achieve peace and order. It will just get worse),” Gatchalian said.

He lauded the Department of Justice (DOJ) though for its swift action, including meeting Chinese embassy representatives on Thursday to map out an exit plan for the repatriation of overstaying POGO workers back to China.

Gatchalian feared a “humanitarian crisis” if China won’t accept its citizens back.

DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla met with Zhou Zhiyong, Chargé D’affaires Ad Interim of the Chinese Embassy in Manila, at the DOJ main office in Manila.

They discussed the possible timeline for the repatriation. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)