Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday said there is a conflict of interest in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) responsibilities as regulatory body while also operating casinos.

“May conflict of interest talaga sa responsibilities ng PAGCOR. Sa kabilang banda, regulator siya, naghihigpit siya. Sa kabilang banda kumikita siya, maluwag siya (There is indeed a conflict of interest in PAGCOR’s responsibilities. Since it is a regulator, it should be strict. On the other hand, it earns, it is not so strict),” Gatchalian said in a press conference.

Gatchalian said if PAGCOR will strictly implement policies, it will not earn enough money and gaming operators, including the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) will leave the country.

“So isa sa nakikita ko kung hindi natin maaayos yan, kung hindi natin mahihiwalay ang regulation at operation, hindi natin mahihiwalay ang problema natin sa POGO (So one of the things I see is if we can’t solve that, if we can’t separate regulation and operation, we can’t separate our problem with POGO),” he said.

He was referring to the problem of kidnappings and other crimes recently linked to the POGOs.

Gatchalian said one of his recommendations would be to amend the PAGCOR charter to create one body for regulation and another agency for operation.

During the previous Senate hearings, Gatchalian said finance experts and economists suggested a total ban of POGO due to “reputational risk” it brings to the country.

“Dahil nga merong krimen na nakakabit dito sa POGO, ang mga gustong mag-invest sa atin ayaw mag-invest dahil natatakot (Because there is a crime attached to POGO, those who want to invest in us do not want to invest because they are afraid),” he said.

He said instead of POGO, sustainable and long term foreign direct investments like business process outsourcing (BPO) should be encouraged to come to the Philippines.

“Ang BPO walang crime. Pero matagal na siya, almost 20 years na dito sa ating bansa (BPO has no crime. It is already in the country for almost 20 years). We want to attract the right investment,” he said.

Gatchalian said some POGOs did not properly declared their capital, including one that declared only PHP25 million but when audited by a third party, it turned out that the capital was PHP1 billion.

He, however, said he would give emphasis on the welfare of over 20,000 local workers who will be affected if POGOs will be totally banned in the country.

“Yun ang aking concern so bibigyan ko ng emphasis ang about 20,000 who are working in the POGO industry. Importante meron silang trabaho lalo na sa mga ganitong panahon (That’s my concern. So I will give emphasis on about 20,000 who are working in the POGO industry. It is important that they should have jobs especially in the kind of situation that we have),” he said.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said he would finish his committee report on POGO investigation within two weeks. (PNA)