Philippines’ foreign POGO employment slashed 50% in first nine months of 2020: DOLE

Philippines’ foreign POGO employment slashed 50% in first nine months of 2020: DOLE

The number of foreigners seeking employment permits to work for the controversial Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs) has been cut in half this year, the Department of Labor & Employment (DOLE) revealed in its latest report.

According to DOLE, exact number of so-called Alien Employment Permits (AEPs) granted to foreigners through the end of September 2020 was recorded at 73,640. More than 84 per cent of those AEPs were granted to workers from Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGOs), but the figure is considerably down from the total number of 158,710 AEPs recorded for the corresponding period of 2019, with 77.9 per cent of those going to POGOs.

The official stats also revealed that of the POGO employees who were granted AEPs, nearly 90 per cent were from mainland China. The long list of other countries sending workers to the Philippines included Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.

The aforementioned data represented a decline of 49.69 per cent or 61,453 compared to the total number of recorded in the year of 2019.

Commenting on the data, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said, “This showed a substantial decrease of 49.69 percent or 61,453 compared to the total issuance in 2019, due to the limited inbound travel restrictions and limited operations of POGO-related establishments.”

The newly released stats provide another clear indicator that the Southeastern Asian country’s online gambling sector is reducing in size and influence.

It is an open secret that the recent COVID-19 pandemic-caused travel restrictions impacted the POGO industry the most, but the country’s stricter AEP issuance rules also played a role in the shrinking of the controversial gaming sector. Merely 29 POGOs have been allowed by gaming authorities to resume operations since the country began mandating quarantines in March this year to help curb the potentially lethal infection.

Since May this year, after the surfacing of the Pastillas immigration scandal, the labor department tightened its rules related to issuing AEPs. The immigration scandal was allegedly used by numerous senior immigration officials to allow several foreign workers to illegally enter the country in exchange of bribes.

So-called POGOs have long been subject of controversy and criticism for targeting foreign high-rollers, particularly in mainland China, where gambling is illegal. Around a couple of months ago, Chinese government had warned that it could blacklist certain countries and their gambling operators if they are found targeting high-rollers in mainland China.