POGO monitoring, four years behind

By Herbert Vego

WHY only now?

This was the question that bothered me yesterday upon reading the news that the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) was looking into  Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) sites at the Multinational Village in Parañaque City, where suspected sleeper agents of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reside.

They should have known that as far back as four long years ago.  In fact, that was the subject of my column in this paper’s June 15, 2020 issue. A portion of that column reads:

“I have been receiving calls from a resident bothered by the sudden disappearance of his neighbors who don’t live there anymore; they have either sold or leased their houses to Chinese newcomers.

“My friend knows that while some of them work for the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs), some others could be engaging in suspicious activities because they often visit a newly-constructed firing range nearby.

“He had reasons to be nervous. For example, a suspect involved in the killing of a fellow Chinese in a Makati restaurant in February [2020] was caught carrying an identification card naming his employer as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed forces of mainland China.”

That incident jibes with the recent discovery of PLA uniforms in the Lucky South 99 POGO facility in Porac, Pampanga.

The Porac hub has 46 buildings on 10 hectares of land, or bigger than the 36-building hub of Zun Yuan Technology in Bamban, Tarlac.

Both the Bamban and Porac hubs yielded pieces of evidence affirming their involvement in robbery-extortion, money laundering, online scams, and espionage.

A total of 165 out of 167 Chinese nationals caught in the Bamban raid have already been deported to China.

A total of 58 gaming hubs are now being monitored by PAOCC, according to its spokesperson Winston John Casio. Of that number only 43 have licenses to operate as online gaming operators.

Better late than never for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to ban outright all POGO operations in the Philippines despite the insistence of certain politicians and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) that the ban would mean potential revenue losses of P20 billion per year.  National security should always be the guiding light to determine political will.

Oh my God, have they not perceived bigger losses in the long run when armed Chinese invasion would have blown out of control?

The daily incursions of the Chinese naval vessels with water cannons at the West Philippine Sea is disturbing enough. What if water turns into bombs?

We seem to have forgotten the near-fatal molestation at West Philippine Sea on June 9, 2019: A local fishing boat, Gem-Vir 1, was rammed by a Chinese vessel. The 22-member crew were left floating on the sea and fighting for their life, until a Vietnamese fishing boat passed by and rescued them.

We can’t rely on senators, congressmen and other elective officials with an undesirable history of coddling the POGOs for whatever “blessings” to them.

It was by order of former President Rodrigo Duterte that the 18th Congress passed on September 22, 2021 Republic Act 11590, which legitimized POGO as offshore gaming operator, whether organized abroad or in the Philippines, duly licensed and authorized, through a gaming license by PAGCOR or any special economic zone authority, tourism zone authority or freeport authority to conduct offshore gaming operations.

With Sen. Pia Cayetano as author/sponsor, the law had 17 senators voting to legitimize POGO, including Sherwin Gatchalian, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then Senate President Tito Sotto, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Ronald dela Rosa, Bong Go, Richard Gordon, Manny Pacquiao, Koko Pimentel, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Bong Revilla, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Migz Zubiri.

Since some of the above would be running again in 2025, I bet my pinakbet they would still follow the leader.



MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power), the sole distribution utility in  Iloilo City has kept its reputation as the “lowest” in Western Visayas for charging households only P10.32 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) increase this month.

In contrast, the three branches of Iloilo Electric Cooperative in the province have pegged their rates at an average of P14/kWh.

The reason is because MORE Power has managed to maintain competitive rates due to its bilateral contracts with power generators, and limiting its exposure to the more expensive wholesale electricity spot market (WESM).

In contrast, the electric cooperatives in Region 6 resort to WESM due to the shutdown of geothermal power plants due to mechanical equipment failure, and high heat indices that increased consumer demands.